01. History of Asbestos Use
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1915 – present
- Location: Passaic, New Jersey
- Production: Chemicals, plumbing
- Asbestos Trust: Yes
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. was originally founded as a manufacturer of chemicals for plumbing purposes. Sam Wander, the founder, established the company in the early 1900s in New York City.
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. produced a variety of products to help the plumbing industry, including putties, cements, acids, wax and antifreeze. The product offering expanded and evolved as the company grew, which also meant their ingredients changed to meet consumer demands.
Starting in the 1950s, the company began producing plumbing products with asbestos. The mineral was often used in plumbing applications because it is a durable, non-flammable option that would not break down easily when exposed to water or heat.
Among its most popular products was Sta-Put, a putty that was at its peak production in 1962. The putty was used as a leak-proof sealing material for sink pipes, drains and faucets. Another of the company’s popular products during this time included retort/furnace cement. These products were branded as “high heat” options, meaning asbestos was incorporated to withstand high temperatures from furnaces and hot pipes.
The company stopped producing products with asbestos in 1983, but many workers and consumers were still exposed to dangerous fibers.
Many individuals filed asbestos-related claims due to exposure from one product in particular: Sta-Put plumber’s putty. As a result of the thousands of asbestos-related claims, Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. The company emerged from bankruptcy two years later after a reorganization plan was approved by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. was acquired by Oatey, a manufacturing and distribution network, in 2013. Though the company is in operation today, it is still mentioned in asbestos lawsuits and uses its trust fund to pay out claimants.
02. Asbestos Products
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. Asbestos Products
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. had several products that were known to contain asbestos. In plumbing applications, asbestos was typically used to mitigate wear and tear on products from water damage or excessive heat.
Furnace cement was often used to seal and repair furnaces and boilers, as well as chimneys and other applications. Plumbers putty, another product manufactured by Hercules Chemical Company, Inc., is used to create a seal on pipes, faucets and drains. These materials often deteriorate or require repairs, upon which asbestos fibers may be released into the air and inhaled.
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc.’s asbestos-containing products include:
- For Heat’s Sake
- Hercules furnace cement
- Hercules Sta-Put Stainless Putty (available in the 1950s)
Any level of asbestos exposure is dangerous, but some of the company’s products contained higher concentrations of asbestos depending on its purpose. Hercules Chemical Company, Inc.’s asbestos-containing furnace cement contained 7% asbestos, and the Sta-Put putty contained 3% asbestos.
03. Occupational Exposure
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. and Occupational Exposure
Plumbers were among the most at-risk of exposure to asbestos from Hercules Chemical Company, Inc.’s products. Workers may have been exposed to asbestos fibers when pouring furnace cement or manipulating putty to seal pipes. They may also be exposed when sanding, breaking or otherwise disturbing asbestos-containing cement or putty.
Demolition workers can also be put at risk if they are unsafely removing these materials from furnaces or pipes.
04. Asbestos Litigation
Asbestos Litigation Against Hercules Chemical Company, Inc.
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. used asbestos in its products from the 1950s until the 1980s, exposing thousands of workers who later developed diseases like mesothelioma. As a result, the company has faced numerous lawsuits and continues to be named. In 2008, the company filed for bankruptcy due to mounting claims. In that year, the company faced about 7,000 outstanding lawsuits from hazards associated with its asbestos products.
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. also faced lawsuits for other chemicals in its products that created serious health concerns. The company used a chemical known as Agent Orange, which has since been recognized as a carcinogen. Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. and other businesses, including Dow Chemical Company, faced numerous lawsuits from veterans due to the wide reach of Agent Orange. In 1984, the companies faced a verdict of $180 million in favor of 52 veterans who developed cancer and other ailments from exposure.
05. Asbestos Trust Fund
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. Asbestos Trust Fund
Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on August 22, 2008. As of 2013, Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. operates as a brand of Oatey, however, the company established its own trust fund in 2010 after emerging from bankruptcy. The trust began accepting claims in 2011 and was initially funded with $8.6 million.
The payment percentage as of April 2019 is 4.7% for successful claims. The trust continues to accept and pay claims for Hercules Chemical Company, Inc. Payments can vary and are typically decided on a case-by-case basis and different factors can impact payouts, such as the stage of the disease and the asbestos lawyer’s experience.