Combustion Engineering History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1912 – 2005
- Location: Stamford, Connecticut
- Production: Boilers
- Asbestos Trust: Yes
Combustion Engineering was established in 1912 through the merger of two industrial manufacturing companies, Grieve Gate Company and American Stoker Company. Both of Combustion Engineering’s predecessors manufactured fuel-burning equipment, such as coal stokers.
In 1925, Combustion Engineering expanded into the steam system industry and acquired two boiler companies in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Starting in the 1930s, Combustion Engineering incorporated asbestos components into boiler production, including its welded boilers. Asbestos was incorporated into the company’s boilers to provide heat and pressure resistance.
In 1948, Combustion Engineering merged with steam engine manufacturer, Superheater Company. The two companies had a long-standing partnership and joined to form Combustion Engineering-Superheater, Inc.
Five years later, the company reverted to its original name, Combustion Engineering. It continued to produce asbestos-containing boilers and other steam control equipment.
In the mid-1960s, Combustion Engineering began to produce asbestos parts in-house. Previously, it sourced these components from other asbestos companies. Combustion Engineering’s new asbestos products included insulation and cement. These were used widely for fireproofing, heat-resistance and electrical insulation.
Combustion Engineering used asbestos in boilers until the late 1960s and manufactured other asbestos products until the mid-1970s.
While Combustion Engineering manufactured its own asbestos products, the company also distributed asbestos products manufactured by other companies, such as M.H. Detrick Company and Johns-Manville.
In the mid-1960s, Combustion Engineering began to receive asbestos injury claims due to individuals being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. During this period, the company received hundreds of claims per year.
In late 1989, Combustion Engineering was acquired by a Swiss industrial engineering company, ASEA Brown Boveri Group (ABB Group), for $1.6 billion.
In 2003, ABB Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on behalf of Combustion Engineering because of the company’s mounting asbestos litigation. In 2005, an asbestos personal injury trust was established.
Today, Combustion Engineering is owned by ABB Group. The company operates Combustion Engineering as a real estate leasor, but products are no longer manufactured under the brand name. The trust continues to receive and pay out asbestos claims.
Combustion Engineering Asbestos Products
Combustion Engineering manufactured, used and distributed different asbestos-containing products from the 1930s to the mid-1970s. One of the company’s first asbestos products was its welded boilers, which contained asbestos insulation. These boilers used asbestos components until the late 1960s.
Combustion Engineering boilers were operated at 3,336 sites in 62 U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Owens-Illinois, Inc. and Monsanto Chemical Company used the boilers, as well as other sites like hospitals and retail stores.
The company also manufactured asbestos-containing insulation and cement materials from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Combustion Engineering used these materials for boiler production and sold them countrywide.
Additionally, Combustion Engineering’s asbestos insulation and cement were used in the shipbuilding industry. These products were present at 117 shipyards in 30 states, including the Alabama Drydock & Shipping Company, Ingalls Shipyard and multiple Bethlehem Steel shipyards. The company also manufactured products used on 3,889 ships.
Combustion Engineering Products Containing Asbestos
|Product Name||Start Year||End Year|
|Combustion Engineering Block Stick||1963||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Boilers|
|Combustion Engineering Buck Stay Cement A- 1360||1965||1966|
|Combustion Engineering Calcrete Insulating Cement||1964||1970|
|Combustion Engineering Castablock Insulating Cement||1965||1966|
|Combustion Engineering Expansion Joint Hat||1963||1966|
|Combustion Engineering Fibrous Adhesive||1964||1965|
|Combustion Engineering Fibrous Adhesive||1964||1965|
|Combustion Engineering Gunisul||1963||1966|
|Combustion Engineering Hilite Insulating Cement|
|Combustion Engineering Kaiser Hard Top Insulating Cement||1964||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Kaiser M Block Insulation||1959||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Lite Wate 22||1969||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Lite Wate 50||1969||1972|
|Combustion Engineering MHD Finishing Cement||1964||1968|
|Combustion Engineering Mix A||1963||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Permiseal Weathercoating||1964||1975|
|Combustion Engineering Pyroscat Fireproofing Cement||1964||1972|
|Combustion Engineering SDK 50 Cement||1963||1966|
|Combustion Engineering Stic-Tite Cement|
|Combustion Engineering Stick-Tite Insulating Cement||1963||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Super 711 Insulating Cement|
|Combustion Engineering Super Finish Insulating Cement||1965||1968|
|Combustion Engineering Super Finish Stick-Tite Insulating Cement||1963||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Super Stick-Tite Insulating Cement||1963||1972|
|Combustion Engineering Utility Thermal Finish Cement||1964||1972|
|Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Air-Check Cement||1963||1971|
|Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Coating||1963||1977|
|Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Duriseal||1964||1973|
|Combustion Engineering WeatherKote Protective Thermal Coat||1964|
Combustion Engineering and Occupational Exposure
Many professions suffered from occupational asbestos exposure as a result of Combustion Engineering’s hazardous products.
Employees who were directly involved with asbestos maintenance and production were likely exposed to the dangerous mineral. Asbestos can become airborne when disturbed, especially during maintenance work or removal of the materials.
Boilermakers were often exposed while removing asbestos-containing components, such as insulation and cement. These workers were responsible for cleaning and replacing the parts, which caused asbestos fibers to become airborne. The fibers could be ingested or inhaled by workers and others in the surrounding area.
Asbestos Litigation Against Combustion Engineering
Asbestos claims against Combustion Engineering were first filed in the mid-1960s. At year-end 2001, there were 94,000 total pending claims against Combustion Engineering. In 2002 alone, the company was mentioned in an additional 79,000 claims. The company reserved $940 million in 2000 and $590 million in 2001 for asbestos litigation and related costs.
In one case, Combustion Engineering was found liable for Glenn Taylor’s occupational asbestos exposure and resulting mesothelioma cancer. After 30 years as a shipfitter at Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Plant Shipyard Corporation, Taylor retired in 1980 due to poor health.
Three years later, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and filed lawsuits against several asbestos companies.
Taylor received three initial settlements, totaling $266,500 from Fibreboard Corporation, Babcock & Wilcox Company and Garlock Incorporated. Combustion Engineering paid $17,500, nearly six months after the other companies settled.
Glenn Taylor Settlement Amounts
- Fibreboard Corporation: $250,000
- Combustion Engineering: $17,5000
- Babcock & Wilcox Company: $15,000
- Garlock Incorporated: $1,500
Jerold Anderson, a machinist for the Wisconsin Electric Power Company in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, also filed a lawsuit against Combustion Engineering for his mesothelioma diagnosis. Anderson worked for the company for 39 years.
During his career, Anderson worked around Combustion Engineering boilers that contained asbestos insulation. Anderson’s coworker testified he couldn’t see a worker standing a few feet away due to the thick clouds of asbestos dust that formed during repairs.
Anderson died of mesothelioma in 1998, and his wife filed a claim against several responsible companies, including Combustion Engineering. The other companies involved in the lawsuit settled out of court with Mrs. Anderson, while Combustion Engineering went to trial.
During testimony, witnesses for Combustion Engineering argued Anderson’s exposure was beneath the “threshold limit value” for developing an asbestos disease. However, Combustion Engineering later conceded there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, and workers can develop asbestos-related conditions at any level of exposure.
The jury awarded $1.05 million to the family and found Combustion Engineering to be 29% responsible for Anderson’s cancer.
Combustion Engineering was mentioned in thousands of similar asbestos claims throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. By 2002, Combustion Engineering was unable to meet its payment obligations.
Decreasing insurance coverage, coupled with increasing numbers of asbestos claims, resulted in billions of dollars of debt for ABB Group.
Combustion Engineering Asbestos Trust Fund
ABB Group pursued Chapter 11 bankruptcy for Combustion Engineering in 2003 to resolve the company’s asbestos liability. An agreement was reached and the bankruptcy plan took effect in October 2005. After approval, the Combustion Engineering 524(g) Asbestos Personal Injury Trust was established to handle current and future asbestos claims.
The personal injury trust was initially funded with $1.24 billion. This agreement diverted Combustion Engineering’s leftover value of $812 million to the fund. ABB Group also provided payments and stock to the fund to benefit claimants.
Currently, successful claimants are paid at a rate of 25%. Actual payout amounts may vary based on a number of factors including age, disease severity, exposure history and firm settlement history.
Today, the trust is operational and continues to receive claims.