Weil McLain Company History
Over the course of the 20th century, Weil-McLain would grow to become the largest manufacturer of cast iron boilers in the United States, as well as a recognized leader in the hydroponic industry. The company has seen growth into other areas, especially in the past decade or so. In 1999, Weil-McLain expanded its boiler line and entered the oil furnace market by acquiring Williamson Thermoflo. And in 2006, the company expanded its international reach by purchasing Taishan Maeda Boiler Company in Tai’an Chine, a company that makes and sells boilers and related parts for the Chinese market.
Weil-McLain was purchased by United Dominion in 1993, and today is under the ownership of SPX Corporation, a Fortune 500 company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Weil-McLain employs 700 employees around the world and in 2007 had gross revenues of $4.8 billion. While the company has expanded – with a plant in Eden, North Carolina and sales offices throughout the U.S., Canada and China – its headquarters and foundry operations remain in Michigan City.
Asbestos Exposure Risk at Weil-McLain
Products that deal with heating and cooling have a tendency to get very hot by nature of the work they do. In order to combat this problem, the heating industry for many years added asbestos – a naturally occurring mineral with excellent heat-resistant qualities – to many of its products. Since the late 1800s, asbestos had become a popular ingredient in thousands of products because of its heat resistance, and also because it is strong, flexible and resistant to chemicals. It seemed that the mineral’s uses were simply endless; from sound absorption to electrical insulation, asbestos seemed like the answer to countless industrial problems.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after workers had been surrounded by asbestos for decades that the public began to realize that it was dangerous to human health. When products that contain asbestos age, they tend to become brittle and break down, releasing asbestos dust into the air. If a person breathes this dust, the long, crystalline fibers in the asbestos can embed themselves in his or her lungs, and may eventually result in mesothelioma, an asbestos cancer.
People who worked with Weil-McLain products have said they frequently handled asbestos products in the course of their work. Asbestos rope, for instance, was routinely used between Weil-McLain boiler sections; when this rope was cut, it released harmful asbestos dust into the air. Asbestos cement, too, was used to seal gaps between boiler sections, and air cell insulation used on boiler jackets often crumbled and released hazardous asbestos fibers. Gaskets made by the company are also thought to have contained asbestos as well.
In fact, all Weil-McLain’s sectional boilers used asbestos products from the 1950s through the 1970s, according to court testimony. Products made or used by Weil-McLain that are believed to have contained asbestos include, but are not limited to:
- Dresser Asbestos Gaskets
- l-Fired Boiler and Oil Heating Units with asbestos rope seals
- Asbestos cement
- Air cell insulation
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Anyone who worked with or near Weil-McLain’s asbestos-containing products could be at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease. That exposure might have taken place during the manufacturing process at a plant where the products were made – like Weil-McLain’s plant in Michigan City, Indiana – or on site at one of the schools, hospitals, apartment buildings or other places that purchased Weil-McLain’s boilers.
Plumbers, pipe fitters, millwrights, janitors – anyone who installed, repaired or maintained a boiler made by Weil-McLain between the 1950s and 1970s could have had their health compromised. Sadly, a worker’s family could also have been affected by asbestos by being exposed to the substance secondhand, if the fibers were brought home on the worker’s dusty work clothes, shoes or hair.
As of March 2011, numerous asbestos-related lawsuits had been filed against Weil-McLain and its parent company, SPX Corporation. Plaintiffs in these cases allege that their health was affected by working with asbestos-related to Weil-McLain’s products.
In March 2011, SPX Corporation announced that it had purchased B.W. Murdoch, a New Zealand-based leading engineering company that supplies processing solutions for the food and beverage industry.