John Crane Company History
The company sold off its England-based operations prior to World War II to a company named Tube Investments, which eventually became known as TI Group PLC. Crane Packing Company continued to grow after the split, receiving 24 patents during World War II alone, mainly for mechanical seals designed to handle high-pressure and corrosive fluids and gases. The company is also known for inventing the first automotive mechanical seal in 1939.
In 1951, Crane Packing Company moved its headquarters to Morton Grove, a suburb of Chicago, where its 25-acre, five-building headquarters still stands today. In 1987, Crane Packing Company was purchased by TI Group PLC, the owner of its former England-based operations. The resulting company was named John Crane Company.
Today, John Crane is a subsidiary of Smiths Group PLC, a new company formed following the merger of Smiths Industries and TI Group. John Crane continues to manufacture mechanical seals, sealing support systems, mechanical packings, and power transmission couplings under brand names like John Crane, Sealol, Safematic, Flexibox, Metastream, Powerstream, Lemco and Performance Plus. The company has 20 manufacturing sites and employs 6,000 people in 50 counties.
Asbestos Exposure Risk at John Crane Company
Starting in the late 1800s, around the time of the Industrial Revolution, numerous industries began turning to a naturally occurring mineral called asbestos for many of their needs. Asbestos, a mineral made of thin, fibrous crystals that occurs in large deposits in nature, was extremely appealing to many companies because it is strong, durable, versatile, heat-resistant and inexpensive.
Among the companies that utilized asbestos in their products was the John Crane Company. The company added asbestos to its gaskets – mechanical seals that are used to fill the gap between two adjacent surfaces, generally to prevent leaking – to make them stronger and more resistant to pressure and heat. Asbestos was also used in John Crane’s packing materials because, in addition to its great strength, the substance can be easily molded to fit various surfaces. For example, John Crane’s asbestos rope – which reportedly contained more than 60 percent asbestos – was bended to line the surfaces of valves and other surfaces that needed padding.
Unfortunately, it has become apparent since the 1970s that asbestos is not the miracle additive that industries thought it was; in fact, the substance is gravely dangerous to human health. Asbestos products become hazardous when they become friable, or brittle. When this happens, asbestos fibers are released into the air. If those airborne fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in a person’s lung tissue and cause deadly respiratory conditions like mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis.
Leaders at John Crane’s parent company, Smiths Group PLC, say John Crane stopped making products with asbestos in 1985. Still, the company’s asbestos-containing products could still be is use, so extreme care should be used when dealing with the company’s older products.
- John Crane Company products that may have contained asbestos include (but are not limited to):
- John Crane-Houdaille 333G, 334, 350, and numerous other models
- John Crane Hydraulic Packings
- John Crane Ring Packing
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
People who worked in close proximity to John Crane Company’s asbestos-containing gaskets, packing materials and other products may have had their health compromised by exposure to the deadly mineral. Laborers who worked in one of John Crane’s plants before 1985 are at a high risk, even if they did not work directly with asbestos. Just working in the vicinity of the substance could put a person at risk if they breathed the hazardous fibers.
A wide variety of other occupations could also be at risk, such as machinists, auto mechanics, repairmen and any other workers who worked with John Crane Company’s asbestos-containing products. Workers who say they have been affected by John Crane’s asbestos products include a locomotive technician who fixed steam and diesel engines that contained the company’s asbestos-containing gaskets, and a ship repairman who lined valves with John Crane’s asbestos rope.
Sadly, workers’ families may also suffer the consequences of asbestos exposure, even if they never came into contact with asbestos products firsthand. Because asbestos fibers are known to cling to clothing, anyone who washed or handled a worker’s dusty clothes have had their health compromised.
It’s important to note that it can take decades for the effects of mesothelioma to appear in the human body, and unfortunately, survival rates for the disease are low. If you think you may be at risk, take the time to learn more about the symptoms and treatment options available to you.
Both John Crane Company and its parent company, Smiths Group PLC, have been named as plaintiffs in numerous lawsuits by people who say they were affected by the company’s asbestos-containing products. As of 2001, 129,000 claims were pending against John Crane, and the company had paid out $82 million in damages.