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J.H. France Refractories Co., Inc.

J.H. France Refractories Company History

Refractory materials are heat-resistant substances used at foundries in the linings of furnaces, kilns, incinerators and other machines that must withstand extremely high temperatures. J.H. France Refractories Co., Inc. is a manufacturer of such products with operations in Long Island City, New York. The Van Brunt Company was once a wholly-owned subsidiary of J.H. France Refractories Co.

Products Manufactured by J.H. France Refractories Co. that Contained Asbestos

For many years, the way manufacturers created heat-resistant refractory materials was with the use of asbestos. Asbestos – a name that comes from the Greek word “asbestinon,” meaning “inextinguishable” – is the name given to a set of naturally occurring silicate minerals comprised of long, thin crystals.

Starting in the late 1800s, a time when industry was skyrocketing in the United States, manufacturers came to realize these crystals could be of great use to them because of their strength, durability and heat- and fire-resistant qualities. Best of all, because the mineral was easily found in large mineral deposits in nature, it was also cheap. Soon asbestos mines began cropping up around the world, and massive quantities of the mineral were arriving at U.S. ports to be woven into everything from building insulation to fireproof blankets.

Between 1956 and 1972, J.H. France Refractories Co. is believed to have used asbestos in some of its products. J.H. France’s subsidiary, the Van Brunt Company, is also believed to have used the mineral. Products manufactured by J.H. France Refractories Co. believed to have contained asbestos include, but are not limited to:

  • Franco-Therm cement

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

At the time, foundry workers probably thought the biggest hazard of their job was dealing with extreme heat. But it turns out asbestos proved to be an even greater danger. Foundry workers who used or simply worked near products like Franco-Therm were very likely to be exposed to asbestos, a carcinogenic substance that we now know causes debilitating respiratory diseases.

Because they were constantly burning and building up residue, foundry machinery had to be regularly cleaned out and scraped down, processes that released dust from products like Franco-Therm into the air. (Exposure was especially likely in this environment because foundries tend to be very poorly ventilated.) When foundry workers inhaled this dust, tiny asbestos particles would become lodged in their lungs and, over time, make breathing difficult. Many years later, significant numbers of these workers are being diagnosed with serious ailments like asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer, a rare and inoperable type of cancer for which asbestos is the only known cause.

Individuals most likely to be affected by asbestos in J.H. France Refractories Co. products are furnace and smelter operators, laborers, masonry workers and others who worked in foundries that used the company’s asbestos-containing between 1956 and 1972.

Recent News

As a result of the company’s asbestos usage, J.H. France Refractories Co., Inc. has been named as a defendant in numerous lawsuits by former foundry workers and their loved ones. Plaintiffs claim they suffered because they were exposed to asbestos-containing products like Franco-Therm on the job.



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