Buffalo Pumps, Inc. History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1887 – present
- Location: North Tonawanda, New York
- Production: Pumps
- Asbestos Trust: No
Prior to the 1900s, Buffalo Pumps, Inc. had already established itself as an industrial pump manufacturer in North Tonawanda, New York, producing pumps across a variety of industries. During this time, they used asbestos in their products for its durability and resistance to heat. The company flourished in the early 1900s during World War I, where their pumps were utilized by Liberty cargo ships. Buffalo brand pumps were also popular on aircraft carriers and other naval ships during World War II.
In the 1930s, the company was purchased by the Buffalo Forge Company. In 1941, their new owner Buffalo Forge Company went public with stock options on the New York Stock Exchange. At this time, Buffalo Pumps and other acquisitions became wholly-owned subsidiaries.
Buffalo Forge and all its divisions, including Buffalo Pumps, Inc., were acquired by Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation in 1979. During the acquisition, Buffalo Pumps, Inc. was still using asbestos in its pumps and other materials, which continued until the 1980s.
Although the company discontinued asbestos use in their pumps and other products, thousands of individuals were exposed to asbestos and may still be exposed from old pumps that require repairs. Today, Buffalo Pumps serves as a division of the Air and Liquid Systems Corporation of Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation. The company faces thousands of personal injury lawsuits as a result of dangerous exposure to their asbestos products.
Buffalo Pumps, Inc. Asbestos Products
Buffalo Pumps, Inc. specializes in manufacturing pumps for ships and commercial industries. Pumps are essential aboard ships, as they transport fluids throughout the ship, particularly to cool down high-heat areas and water.
Asbestos-containing marine pumps, as well as commercial industry pumps, often require maintenance that can cause asbestos fibers to become airborne. This can cause mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions. Experts knew of these risks by the 1960s, but companies like Buffalo Pumps, Inc. continued to use asbestos in their products until the 1980s.
A number of asbestos products from Buffalo Pumps contained asbestos, including:
- Single Suction Full Ball Bearing Pumps – Classes CH, CL, CM, CS, CO, CSS
- Double Suction Full Ball Bearing Pumps – Classes SA, S, SLH, SU, DSS, SW
- Paper Stock Pumps – DS, DSH
- Sewage Pumps – E, RS, RSL
- Multistage Pumps – RR-2, RR-4
Buffalo Pumps, Inc. and Occupational Exposure
Buffalo Pumps, Inc., and the pump industry as a whole, exposed many workers to asbestos. Those who worked aboard World War II ships were at a particularly high risk of inhaling asbestos fibers, as maintenance workers and Navy veterans experienced minimal airflow in confined pump rooms. During this time, it is estimated that anywhere between 100,000 and 500,000 pounds of asbestos products were used in naval shipyards per month.
Any trade that helped in manufacturing and repairing pumps were often exposed to airborne asbestos fibers, and family members of workers were also exposed through secondary exposure.
Asbestos Litigation Against Buffalo Pumps, Inc.
As of 2017, Ampco Pittsburgh’s Annual Report to Shareholders reported 6,907 pending asbestos claims against Buffalo Pumps, Inc. and other divisions owned by Ampco. They also documented more than $21 million in settlement and defense costs for the company, who receives more than 1,000 new claims each year.
One such case involved Edward Merwitz, a shipfitter who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2010 and died six months later. Merwitz worked in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in the late 1960s, working with asbestos-containing pumps, gaskets, insulation and packing products, among other materials. Buffalo Pumps, Inc. and eight other companies were mentioned in the lawsuit. Merwitz claimed there were no warnings of the risks of asbestos exposure from any of the companies, and he was not given sufficient protection from fibers. Although Merwitz passed away before the trial’s completion, his family was awarded $7.25 million.
Buffalo Pumps, Inc. still faces thousands of claims due to their asbestos-containing materials, and it is expected that more will be filed in the future. Given the severity of victims’ asbestos diseases and the company’s long-time use of the toxin, Buffalo Pumps, Inc. will likely continue to be named in lawsuits for years to come.