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The Burnham Corporation is one of the United States’ leading manufacturers of boilers and related HVAC products for residential, commercial and industrial applications. Curiously, the company was actually founded in 1856 as a manufacturer of greenhouses in upstate New York. It wasn’t until nearly two decades later, in 1873, that Frederick Lord and his son-in-law, William Burnham – needing a way to keep their greenhouses heated – constructed their first cast iron boiler.

Today, the Burnham Corporation continues to make cast iron boilers – slightly more complex than the first one built more than a century ago. The company also specializes in stainless steel, aluminum and steel boilers, cast iron and steel heat distribution products, central air-conditioning systems, controls and other products under brand names like U.S. Boiler, Thermo Products and Crown. Its products are sold throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada, finding their way into the boiler rooms of schools, large apartment buildings, and a number of other settings. Burnham Corporation is owned by Burnham Holdings, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based company that owns 14 subsidiaries.

Asbestos Exposure Risk at Burnham Corporation

For years, boilers built by Burnham Corporation and other manufacturers contained asbestos, a mineral made of thin, strong fibers that occur in large deposits in nature. Starting around the time of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, many industries discovered that asbestos could be added to their products make them stronger, more durable and resistant to heat and fire.

Boilers – vessels that generate heat or power by heating water or other liquids – become very hot while in operation, so the machines must be built to withstand extremely high temperatures. To accomplish this, boiler manufacturers often turned to asbestos as a solution. Individuals who worked with Burnham Corporation’s boilers in the 1960s and 1970s recall that many of the components of the boilers – such as insulation on pipes, fire-retardant bricks and gaskets – contained asbestos.

Unfortunately, since the 1970s, the health risks associated with asbestos have come to light; we now know that the fibers in the mineral that make it so strong and so heat-resistant also make it deadly. When products containing asbestos begin to break down from age, or when they are cut in the manufacturing or repair process, asbestos particles can be released into the air. If a person breathes that dust, the particles can become lodged in his or her lung tissue and cause the formation of deadly respiratory diseases like mesothelioma cancer and lung cancer.

In court testimony, people who worked with Burnham’s asbestos-containing products say they were never warned about the health risks associated with asbestos. Without knowing it, workers consistently put their health at risk, sometimes for decades or even their entire careers.

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Unfortunately, anyone who worked with Burnham Corporation’s asbestos-containing boiler products could be at risk for developing an asbestos-related illness. This includes both workers in Burnham Corporation’s own manufacturing plant or employees at any of the countless schools, hospitals or other sites that purchased their products.

Boilermakers – people who fabricate, fit or repair boiler systems – who worked on boilers made by the Burnham Corporation before the 1970s are at a high risk of asbestos exposure. Fabricating and repairing these boiler systems often required these workers to cut and fit asbestos insulation, a process that released hazardous asbestos fibers into the air. Boiler rooms tend to be poorly ventilated, making the conditions even more hazardous for the unsuspecting workers.

Burnham Corporation’s boilers were often sold to schools, apartment buildings and other institutions, so custodians, handymen and others who worked on or around the boiler rooms could also be at risk. Sadly, family members could also be impacted by asbestos just by coming into contact with the fibers second-hand.

Written By

Tara Strand Senior Content Writer

Tara Strand specializes in researching and writing about asbestos, raising awareness and advocating for a ban.

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Reviewed By

Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Jennifer Lucarelli is a partner at the law firm of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen, specializing in asbestos litigation.

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