CertainTeed Corporation History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1904 – present
- Location: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
- Production: Building materials
- Asbestos Trust: No
Originally founded by George M. Brown as the General Roofing Manufacturing Company in East St. Louis, the company specialized in manufacturing roofing materials. More than a decade later, in 1917, the company restructured and adopted the name Certain-teed Products Corporation. Under this name, they began growing as an asphalt shingle manufacturer and eventually expanded their offerings to other building materials. It wasn’t until 1976 that the company adopted the name CertainTeed, which they are known as today.
In the 1930s, the company developed a wood-like asphalt shingle that served as an innovative building material. Innovations like this led Certain-teed to become the world’s largest manufacturer of roofing products and gypsum materials by the late 1930s. During this time, Certain-teed also began using asbestos in their products, which became widespread in the roofing and building industry.
The company was acquired by another asbestos company, Celotex Corporation of Chicago, in 1938. This acquisition was short-lived, as Certain-teed regained control of its operations in the early 1940s. Certain-teed expanded following the split, introducing new asbestos products, such as fireproof gypsum wallboard, and creating a research and development center for their asbestos products.
Prior to 1959, Certain-teed only used gypsum plants in Texas, but the acquisition of a plant in Nova Scotia allowed the company to expand its sales and production of gypsum across the country. Increased sales also meant that the company was able to explore industries like fiberglass.
As with their other asbestos products, Certain-teed quickly saw success in their fiberglass product lines. Their ventures in the industry resulted in the acquisition of a facility in Pennsylvania in 1964, which tripled production upon the transaction. Certain-teed also merged with Gustin-Bacon Manufacturing Company, a leading fiberglass manufacturer during that time.
Other mergers in the 1960s included asbestos companies such as the air conditioning pipe division of Keasbey and Mattison Company. They also acquired Bowles & Eden Supply Company and the Rohan Company, both of which helped Certain-teed to expand their PVC pipe product line.
The company experienced much success in the following years, but their growing influence across many industries meant that countless individuals would be exposed to their harmful materials. As a result of CertainTeed’s own asbestos use and their acquisitions of various asbestos companies, hundreds of thousands of workers around the country faced dangerous exposure to their products. The company didn’t stop using asbestos in their products until the mid-1980s.
In 1988, the company was acquired as a subsidiary of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain, internationally recognized as the largest manufacturer of building materials. The company still operates under Compagnie de Saint-Gobain today. Despite halting the use of asbestos in the 1980s, CertainTeed is still named in thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits each year.
CertainTeed Corporation Asbestos Products
CertainTeed utilized asbestos in its products from the 1930s until the mid-1980s. As they expanded their product line, more and more of their offering utilized the toxin. During the time they were using the mineral, asbestos became increasingly popular across many industries for its properties like durability and heat-resistance.
CertainTeed’s various cements, joint compounds, roof coatings, cement pipes and more were known to contain asbestos.
CertainTeed Corporation Products Containing Asbestos
|Product Name||Start Year||End Year|
|CertainTeed Asbestos Base Flashing||1968||1976|
|CertainTeed Asbestos Cement Pipe||1962||1992|
|CertainTeed Asbestos Cement Sheets||1968||1976|
|CertainTeed Asbestos Roof Coating||1930||1982|
|CertainTeed Cold Process Cement||1940||1967|
|CertainTeed Joint Treating Compound||1937||1956|
|CertainTeed Plastic Cement||1930||1977|
|CertainTeed Sealing Cement||1930||1976|
|CertainTeed Wet Seal Plastic Cement||1961||1977|
CertainTeed and Occupational Exposure
CertainTeed’s use of asbestos impacted people globally. The company’s products were used heavily in construction for residential and commercial buildings, impacting workers, especially in the construction industry. Workers, as well as homeowners, may still be at risk of exposure today from old CertainTeed products that haven’t been removed from homes and buildings built before the 1980s.
During peak asbestos use, the United States Navy was also one of CertainTeed’s largest customers. The Navy relied on CertainTeed’s cold process cements, plastic cements, sealing cements, asbestos cement pipe, asbestos roof coating and joint treating compound. As a result, many veterans, as well as workers in Navy shipyards, may have been exposed to these products.
Asbestos Litigation Against CertainTeed Corporation
As a result of their heavy past use of asbestos, CertainTeed Corporation has been named in numerous asbestos lawsuits and continues to be named in thousands each year. In 2016, reports from their parent company show CertainTeed faced about 3,200 new claims. The following year, the company reported 3,100 new asbestos claims.
By the end of 2017, there were over 34,000 outstanding claims against CertainTeed. Company financial documents show that $555 million was put aside to go toward these claims.
One of the largest verdicts against CertainTeed came in 2010. Rhoda Evans filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against CertainTeed and several other asbestos manufacturers after developing the rare cancer. Rhoda claimed her diagnosis was a result of secondary exposure from washing her husband’s clothing. Her husband Bobby worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, with one of his main work duties consisting of cutting asbestos-containing pipe.
The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power argued that they were not aware of the asbestos risks at the time, nor that they were required to provide workers with safety equipment to prevent exposure. CertainTeed’s defense focused on claims that they took proper safety measures and it was the responsibility of the LA department to ensure the safety of workers.
In the end, the jury split liability between CertainTeed and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, despite other defendants named in the lawsuit. Rhoda Evans was awarded more than $208 million, with $8.8 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages. CertainTeed was found 70% liable.
CertainTeed continues to face similar lawsuits today and pays claimants through their own funds.