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Best known as the top paint supplier in the United States, Sherwin-Williams is a Fortune 500 company that makes and sells paints, automotive finishes, coatings and related products for professional, industrial, commercial and retail customers.

Sherwin-Williams traces its roots to 1866, when Henry Sherwin used his life savings of $2,000 to become a partner in Truman, Dunham & Company, a seller of paint ingredients. Within four years that original partnership dissolved, and Sherwin organized a new paint business with partners Edward Williams and A.T. Osborn. The new business, Sherwin-Williams & Company, opened its first store on Cleveland’s Canal Street in 1873.

Sherwin-Williams Company History

Sherwin-Williams offered its first ready-mixed paint – known as “Painter’s Prepared” – in 1880. After that, the company grew quickly; warehouses were opened in Newark, New Jersey and Boston, Massachusetts in 1884, the same year the company incorporated, and by 1892 the company had launched sales offices internationally (in Montreal) and to the West Coast (in San Diego). The company was also successful because it kept up with the times: When automobiles became increasingly popular in the 1920s, Sherwin-Williams launched a line of automobile lacquer.

In recent decades, Sherwin-Williams has brought its product line into focus through a series of sales and acquisitions. The company sold its chemical operations in 1985, but purchased Western Automotive Finishes, Kryon aerosol paints, DeSoto Consumer Paints, H&C Concrete Stains and White Lightning Caulk. Today, the public company operates approximately 3,887 paint stores and 200 automotive finishes branches, employing nearly 30,000 people and bringing in revenues of more than $7 billion in 2009.

Products Manufactured by Sherwin-Williams Company that Contained Asbestos

Usually when we think about the dangers of old paint, we think of lead. But another additive in Sherwin-William’s products has posed a health concern for thousands of workers and homeowners: asbestos.

Asbestos is the name given to any of six naturally occurring silicate minerals that were used in numerous products and industries throughout the 20th century. The mineral has been used since ancient times because of its fire-resistant qualities and its strength, and in the late 1800s, it became an increasingly popular ingredient in products like insulation, protective clothing and building materials like those made by Sherwin-Williams. For years, people worked around asbestos without the faintest idea that they were doing irreparable damage to their health.

Sherwin-Williams used asbestos in “cement block filler” as a binding agent in some of its coating products until 1972. Specific products manufactured by Sherwin-Williams that contained asbestos include, but are not limited to:

  • Cement Block Fillers
  • Fibrasal Roof Coating (36% asbestos by weight)

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

For the most part, asbestos products are safe as long as they remain intact; that’s because the hazardous asbestos fibers are generally encased in another substance that keeps them from becoming airborne. But when products begin to age, they often become brittle, and those microscopic fibers are released into the air. Once inhaled, they can become lodged in a person’s lungs, planting the seed for asbestos-related diseases like emphysema, asbestosis and mesothelioma, which could eventually take the person’s life.

Because of this, the people who were most likely to be harmed by Sherwin-Williams’ asbestos-containing products are those who were around the products when they were aging and cracked – generally, during demolition or repair, processes that kicked up large amounts of hazardous dust. Roofers, tapers, demolition workers, supervisors, other construction workers, as well as homeowners who worked closely with Sherwin-Williams products made before 1972 may have been put at risk. It’s also important to remember that the threat didn’t just go away after 1972; the asbestos products remained on roofs and walls for years afterward, posing a threat to anyone who worked on them.

Much like secondhand smoke, secondhand exposure to asbestos has also caused numerous people to be afflicted with asbestos-related diseases. Little did workers know that the asbestos dust they brought home on their clothing and shoes could impair the health of their loved ones.

Recent News

As of April 2011, Sherwin-Williams had been named as a co-defendant in numerous asbestos-related lawsuits by individuals who say their health, or the health of a loved one, was compromised by exposure to asbestos in Sherwin-Williams products. The company also faces lawsuits related to the presence of lead in its products.

Written By

Tara Strand Senior Content Writer

Tara Strand specializes in researching and writing about asbestos, raising awareness and advocating for a ban.

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Reviewed By

Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Jennifer Lucarelli is a partner at the law firm of Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney & Meisenkothen, specializing in asbestos litigation.

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