International Paper Company History of Asbestos Use
- Years in Operation: 1898 – present
- Location: Memphis, Tennessee
- Production: Pulp, paper
- Asbestos Trust: No
International Paper Company had an unusual beginning. Since it started from a massive merger of established companies, the company found success immediately. The 17-company merger resulted in International Paper Company owning one million acres of timberlands. The company used its lands to not only harvest the necessary lumber for production, but the company also utilized the streams as a hydroelectric power source.
The interest in power was a profitable endeavor for International Paper Company. By 1928, the company’s hydroelectric plants and power companies had grown so large that they created the International Paper & Power Company as a holding company for the two business arms. Power plants, including water-powered plants like those common throughout International Paper Company, often used asbestos to ensure safe working conditions. Machinery would be insulated with asbestos and employee protective clothing often included the toxin as a fireproofing material.
However, International Paper Co.’s foray into the electric sector was short-lived. The 1935 passage of the Public Utility Holding Act required the company to divest its power-related assets. International Paper then focused on their pulp- and paper-associated business.
Even with the loss of their power-related entity, International Paper Company was prospering. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the company experienced expansion into the southern United States. There it was easier to grow the large number of trees required for their production. Since the move south in the early 1900s, International Paper Company has continued to grow. As part of its expansion, the company has acquired other organizations, some of which have also used asbestos in the past.
The asbestos within International Paper Company factories has led to numerous asbestos claims filed against them. The company has been able to settle these claims out of pocket without the need for an asbestos trust.
Today, the company has more than 52,000 employees. In 2018, the company had more than $20 billion in total revenue. However, asbestos claims continue to be filed against the company.
International Paper Company’s Use of Asbestos Products
While International Paper Company did not include asbestos in their paper products, their facilities were constructed with the toxin. Many paper companies used asbestos insulation in order to prevent costly and dangerous fires from erupting.
International Paper Company used asbestos insulation in their walls and floors. In order to further prevent the spreading of fire, the company also employed corrugated asbestos cement roofing shingles and siding. For instance, more than 400,000 square feet of asbestos-containing roofs were removed during a demolition project at the International Paper Company’s Hudson River Mill.
In 2000, International Paper Company’s entanglement with asbestos became more complicated when it acquired Champion International. Champion also didn’t produce any asbestos-containing products; however, they distributed countertops to shipyards that did contain the toxin. When International Paper Company purchased Champion, they also took on its asbestos liability.
Products associated with International Paper Company that contained asbestos include, but are not limited to:
- Corrugated asbestos cement roofing shingles
- Asbestos siding
International Paper Company and Occupational Exposure
Employees of International Paper Company may have experienced occupational asbestos exposure when working around damaged asbestos insulation. In the 1980s, the International Paper Workers Union conducted a study analyzing asbestos-related diseases among more than 270 former International Paper Co. workers. The researchers found disease in more than half of the former employees.
However, certain occupations are more likely to have been exposed to the toxin. The asbestos insulation is most harmful when being manipulated, cut or broken, which creates airborne fibers. Construction workers, insulation installers and others who built or demolished the International Paper Company facilities are among those most at risk of asbestos-related disease.
While not produced by International Paper Company, exposure from the Champion-produced micarta is also a concern of International Paper Co. Those who manufactured, shipped or installed the asbestos-containing micarta may develop asbestos-related diseases.
Asbestos Litigation Against International Paper Company
International Paper Company has been named in numerous asbestos lawsuits stemming from the asbestos in their facilities and the asbestos-containing products distributed by Champion International.
Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against International Paper Company
- Nellie T, a widow of a former International Paper Co. employee, filed a class-action lawsuit against the company.
- Her husband, Alton, worked in the Moss Point, Mississippi International Paper Company facility.
- Alton worked for the company as a maintenance mechanic and laborer from 1953 – 1997.
- Alton was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died of the disease in 2014.
One such case was filed by John C, a paper mill employee from 1951 – 1972. John worked at the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, mill for 22 years, first as a machine operator and then as a foreman. On July 21, 2000, John was diagnosed with a lung disease stemming from the asbestos exposure he experienced at International Paper Company. Two years later, at 77-years-old, John died from asbestosis. John’s family was awarded compensation after his passing.
The company continues to be named in lawsuits related to their past asbestos use. However, the International Paper Co. has been handling these claims without filing for bankruptcy and starting an asbestos trust fund. Victims successfully filing claims against International Paper Company are compensated by the company’s own funds and its insurer.
Those employed by International Paper Company who believe they have experienced asbestos exposure should contact a mesothelioma specialist. If diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, filing an asbestos claim against International Paper Co. may help pay for expensive medical treatments and lost wages.