Kentile Floors was founded in Brooklyn, New York by a man named Arthur Kennedy. His company started up in 1898 and produced floor tiles. The location is famous for its oversized skyscraper sign that boldly displays the name of the company. In later years the sign lit up in a bright neon purple which could be seen from miles away.
The tiles that were manufactured at Kentile Floors contained several different materials, including a naturally occurring mineral called asbestos. Although asbestos has been used for hundred of years, it reached a tremendous level of importance during the American Industrial Revolution as an advantageous material due to its pliable nature and ability to withstand very high temperatures. It also has the ability to help contain fires, which made it an even more popular component of various products that were used in high temperature environments. There are several different types of asbestos, but they all share the same basic properties. They consist of small fibers that cling together to form a crystal like substance. These fibers can break apart with ease and then float in the air or become attached to most any type of surface. People who are in an area that contains asbestos may be subject to inhaling these fibers, or having them get stuck on articles of clothing or other personal belongings. When this happens, small bits of asbestos can be unknowingly transported to other areas, where they may once again be released into the air and potentially breathed in by others.
People who ingest even trace amounts of asbestos may end up with serious health conditions. All forms of asbestos have a toxic nature that was overlooked from the late 1800's until the mid 1970's. Once the poisonous fibers are taken internally, they can cause a dangerous level of decay to the respiratory system. The fibers are also known to develop into various diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. There are several different mesothelioma cell types. Papillary mesothelioma and sarcomatoid mesothelioma are just two. There is no cure, however, for any type of mesothelioma once it has been diagnosed which is why the survival rate statistics are so low and the projected mesothelioma life expectancy so short. Many lives have been lost to mesothelioma, including people who purchased items from Kentile Floors. For more information about mesothelioma check out our mesothelioma resources section and our mesothelioma treatment guide.
Cases of sickness and death related to the flooring materials produced by Kentile began to surface, and the company was hit with a large number of personal injury lawsuit claims. Expenses from these claims grew so rapidly that by 1992 the company had declared bankruptcy. The intention was to restructure the company and alleviate the debt, but in the end all efforts to save Kentile failed. Despite attempts by corporate executives to establish a trust fund to handle the claims and to return to business with flooring materials that did not contain asbestos, eventually Kentile Floors was closed permanently. Their landmark sign still stands in Brooklyn.