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Viking Pump, Inc. is a manufacturer of displacement pumps and flow-control systems. The company got its start in 1886 when Jens Nielsen, an emigrant from Denmark, established a limestone quarry in his new home of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Nielsen encountered a problem with water seepage at the quarry, which could have been a great setback – but as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. To fix the problem, he developed the first “rotary internal gear” pump in 1904 and patented his invention shortly after.

Viking Pump Company History

In 1911, Nielsen partnered with a machinist, a doctor and a shoe salesman to create Viking Pump Company. They started out with just two employees in a space rented from a washing machine manufacturer, and in their first year made 50 pumps and about $2,000 in revenue. Just one year later, the pump company expanded to its own factory, and by 1919, they were managing 40 employees in a three-building, 12,000-square-foot facility. Five more expansions followed, and by 1976 Viking Pump was operating out of a huge 405,000-square-foot plant. The company also found lucrative contract work in selling pumps for use aboard naval submarines.

Viking Pump has changed ownership several times in the past several decades. In 1968, Viking was acquired by Houdaille Corporation. Houdaille was purchased by TI Group PLC in 1987, and in 1989 Viking Pump was sold to IDEX Corporation, a leader in displacement pumps, color formulation equipment, fire truck pumps and other devices.

Products Manufactured by Viking Pump that Contained Asbestos

For much of the 20th century, pumps – devices designed to move liquids or gases, often as part of a more complex series of machines – were built using a naturally occurring mineral called asbestos. Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers realized that this mineral’s long, thin fibers were excellent insulators, and it could even stop the spread of fire. The mineral was also strong, durable, versatile and inexpensive to acquire. It didn’t take long before product-makers were using asbestos in not just pumps, but also generators, car brakes, fire-resistant blankets, building products, even cigarette filters.

From 1911 to 1986, some Viking pumps were manufactured using asbestos-containing gaskets and packing material. (Gaskets are mechanical seals that prevent fluids or gases from leaking from between two adjoining pieces of metal, whereas packing material was used during shipping to absorb leaks and ease friction on the the pump.) From 1973 to 1976, the company also manufactured a small number of vane pumps – no more than a few hundred – made with asbestos cloth embedded in melamine or phenolic resin. Prior to 1986, Viking Pump also shipped pump parts with flanged connections with a protective port cover that may have contained asbestos. Many of these asbestos-containing pumps were sold to the U.S. Navy, where they were installed aboard submarines.

Unfortunately, no one told the thousands of U.S. Navymen, factory workers, and others who worked with these parts every day that they were handling a material that was toxic. When asbestos becomes airborne, it becomes a serious health hazard; simply breathing in the mineral’s microscopic fibers can cause irreversible asbestos-related ailments. Among them are asbestosis, also known as “diffuse pulmonary fibrosis,” a lung disease characterized by shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and a dry cough; as well as mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer that strikes the lining of the lungs or the abdomen.

Both asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer have long latency periods; that means it can take decades between the time a person is exposed to asbestos and the point when symptoms begin to appear. Unfortunately, that can make diagnosis and treatment of the disease very difficult.

If you have been exposed to asbestos components that were used in the manufacture of Viking Pump products, take the time to learn about asbestos-related diseases today. Products utilized in Viking Pump products that contained asbestos include, but are not limited to:

  • Internal Asbestos Gaskets
  • Packing Material
  • Port Covers
  • Asbestos Cloth (in Vane Pump, manufactured 1973-1976)

Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

One of the most likely groups to have suffered exposure to asbestos in Viking Pump products are U.S. Navy veterans – particularly those who were stationed aboard submarines prior to 1986, the year Viking stopped using asbestos in its products. Those individuals most at risk were those who installed, or repaired and maintained asbestos-containing pump parts, because it was when these products were old or broken down that they were most likely to release toxic asbestos dust into the air. But as you might imagine, submarines are characterized by their extremely close quarters, which made exposure to harmful elements virtually impossible to escape. That means basically every person who worked on board a submarine was likely to be exposed to asbestos on a regular basis.

Viking Pump factory workers who initially installed gaskets in pumps or who packed the items in asbestos packing may also have been put at risk, as well as technicians, machinists, repairmen or others who worked on pumps in other locations after they had been sold. And because secondhand exposure to asbestos can be hazardous to people’s health, the family members of all of these workers sadly may have been exposed as well.

Recent News

As of April 2011, Viking Pump – as well as its parent company, IDEX Corporation – has been named as a co-defendant in numerous lawsuits by people who say their health was injured by asbestos in the company’s asbestos-containing 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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