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Cleaver-Brooks designs, manufactures, distributes and sells boiler room products and systems – such as boilers, burners, controls and accessories – for commercial, industrial and institutional use.

The company was founded as the John C. Cleaver Company in 1929 – the start of the Great Depression – and despite hard economic times, the company’s success began two years later when Cleaver, an engineer, met East Coast businessman Raymond Brooks. Together, the two developed the company’s first claim to fame – the portable asphalt heater. The Cleaver-Brooks wheeled heater was capable of delivering fuel efficiently and quickly to railcars – an invention that was well timed, as the nation took on massive road construction projects in the 1930s.

Cleaver-Brooks Company History

Over the next several decades, Cleaver-Brooks began developing boilers for other applications. During World War II, the company’s boilers were used by the military for mattress sanitizing, heating water for portable showers, portable laundries, and numerous other purposes. The government contracts helped Cleaver-Brooks grow quickly. As the company became more established, it began replacing its asphalt heater products with packaged steam and hot-water boilers, which were used by places ranging from schools to hospitals to pharmaceutical companies.

Between 1969 and 2006, Cleaver-Brooks operated under the name Aqua-Chem Inc., but went back to its original name in 2006. In 2010 the company moved its headquarters from its longtime base in Milwaukee to one of its facilities in Georgia. Other facilities are located in Georgia, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Texas, as well as several in Mexico and Canada. The company employs 500 people.

Asbestos Exposure Risk at Cleaver-Brooks Company

Boilers – vessels in which water or other liquids are heated – have long been used to generate heat and power for industrial, residential and other uses. Because of the nature of the work they do, these machines must be built to withstand extremely high temperatures. For more than four decades – starting in the 1930s and lasting until at least the late 1970s – Cleaver-Brooks dealt with this problem of heat by making their boiler products, such as gaskets and insulation, with a naturally occurring mineral called asbestos.

Asbestos is extremely effective at resisting heat and can control the spread of fire. Starting in the late 19th century, around the time of the Industrial Revolution, asbestos became a common component in thousands of products, as an insulator and for other purposes, because it was effective, strong, plentiful and cheap. People in thousands of industries worked closely with products made with asbestos, never imagining it could be harmful to their health.

Unfortunately, since the 1970s, the public has learned that exposure to asbestos can be deadly. When products containing asbestos begin to deteriorate, or when they are cut in manufacturing or repair processes, asbestos particles are released into the air. If a person breathes in that dust, it can result in deadly respiratory diseases like mesothelioma cancer.

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Anyone who worked with Cleaver-Brooks Company’s asbestos-containing boiler products could be at risk for developing an asbestos-related illness. Exposure could have occurred in a Cleaver-Brooks plant where the company’s products were manufactured, or 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 Cleaver-Brooks products that were made between the 1930s and 1970s are at the highest 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. Without respiratory protection – especially in poorly ventilated boiler rooms – workers breathed this dust, doing grave damage to their bodies, though they wouldn’t know the results for years.

Custodians, handymen and any other occupation who worked on or around Cleaver-Brooks products could be also be at risk – and so could their loved ones. Sadly, family members can be impacted by asbestos just by coming into contact with the fibers second-hand. Because asbestos dust is known to cling to clothing, shoes and hair, just handling or washing dusty work clothes could endanger a person’s health.

Mesothelioma cancer can take 40 years or longer to present symptoms in the human body, so asbestos exposure that occurred years ago could affect your health today.

Recent News

As of February 2011, Cleaver-Brooks has been listed as a co-defendant in numerous asbestos-related lawsuits. Plaintiffs in these cases allege that their health was compromised by working with or near the company’s asbestos-containing gaskets, insulation and other boiler products.

Written By

Tara Strand Senior Content Writer

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

Full Bio Editorial Guidelines
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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