FMC Corporation History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1883 – present
- Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Production: Chemical manufacturing
- Asbestos Trust: No
FMC Corporation began in 1883 as the Bean Spray Pump Company. Founder John Bean launched the company in Los Gatos, California with his continuous action spray pump. Bean’s company was incorporated in 1904 and went public on the San Francisco Stock Exchange in 1928.
That year proved to be an important one for the company. In 1928, Bean Spray Pump Company acquired both Anderson-Barngrover Manufacturing Company and Sprague-Sells Corporation. This prompted a name change to Food Machinery Corporation to better match the company’s new direction, as the acquisitions were canning machinery manufacturers.
The company’s asbestos use began in the 1930s when it acquired the Peerless Pump Company, an asbestos pump manufacturer. FMC Corporation continued producing the asbestos-containing pump following the acquisition.
Shortly after adding the pump to its product offerings, FMC Corporation acquired Niagara Sprayer & Chemical Co. The company was its first chemical company acquisition, which was quickly followed by a second, the West Virginia Pulp & Paper Company, later known as Westvaco Corporation. This new venture prompted another name change to Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation. The chemical arm of the organization continued to grow.
During the 1950s, FMC Corporation continued to build its presence in the United States and abroad. The company’s asbestos use was also steadily increasing at the time. FMC Corporation began including the mineral in products beyond the Peerless pumps in the early 1950s, continuing into the 1980s. The company used asbestos-containing components including asbestos packing, gaskets, friction discs, brake linings and clutch facings.
In 1961, during a time of growth, the company’s name changed once more to FMC Corporation.
In the 1980s, after ending its use of asbestos, FMC Corporation began to be named in asbestos-related lawsuits. As the company dealt with the litigation and settled with asbestos victims, the business continued to grow into the 21st century.
Today, FMC Corporation is split into two separate, publicly-traded companies. FMC Corporation comprises the company’s chemical branch, while FMC Technologies is the machinery business. FMC Corporation, the chemical company, currently employs 6,500 people.
FMC Corporation Asbestos Products
FMC Corporation’s first venture into the asbestos industry came in the 1930s, when it acquired Peerless Pumps Company and continued to manufacture the asbestos goods. FMC Corporation started incorporating asbestos-containing components in more products in the 1950s. Between the mid-1950s and 1980s, the company endangered thousands with its use of materials contaminated with asbestos.
During this time period, FMC Corporation pumps, cranes, excavators, industrial brakes and clutches all contained asbestos components. FMC Corporation pumps often contained asbestos gaskets or packing. Cranes and excavators produced by the company were constructed with asbestos-containing brake linings and clutch facings. The company’s industrial brakes and clutches contained asbestos friction discs.
These asbestos-containing components were added to FMC products to increase durability, strength and heat- and fire-resistance.
In addition to using asbestos within its own products, companies acquired by FMC Corporation also manufactured asbestos products. Link-Belt Company/Construction Equipment Group and Stearns Electric Company both used asbestos in products beginning in the late-1960s.
FMC Corporation and Occupational Exposure
FMC Corporation manufactured a variety of materials that used asbestos-containing components. Due to this inclusion of asbestos, thousands have been exposed to the dangerous mineral while on the job.
Those employed by FMC, such as factory workers who constructed the pumps and other products, are among the most at risk of occupational asbestos exposure. Workers whose job was to maintain the pumps may also have come in contact with asbestos. The risk of inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers is greatest among maintenance workers, who frequently take apart and handle the asbestos-containing components.
Asbestos Litigation Against FMC Corporation
FMC Corporation has been named in thousands of asbestos lawsuits stemming from its previous use of the mineral. Between the 1980s and December 2016, around 113,000 asbestos claims were filed against the company. In that time frame, settlements with claimants cost the company approximately $80 million.
One such case was filed by James and Kay Morgan. James filed against more than 50 companies he believed played a role in his asbestos exposure. He worked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for 37 years, and also worked with asbestos products as a pipefitter from 1952 to 1957 and mechanical engineer from 1959 to 1963. James later developed mesothelioma and passed away from the disease in January 2008, prior to the conclusion of the trial.
The case continued as a wrongful death lawsuit with Kay as plaintiff. The original ruling was not found in the Morgan’s favor, as the jury reasoned that the Morgans did not provide enough evidence of the specific products James was exposed to. Kay appealed the judgment and the jury overturned the verdict, giving Kay the opportunity to receive compensation.
FMC Corporation continues to be involved in asbestos litigation today. The company settles all successful claims with its own funds.