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Asbestos in Plastics

Expert Fact Checked

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Jennifer Lucarelli Legal Advisor and Contributor

Asbestos was commonly added to molded plastics to help withstand high heat. Asbestos plastic was used for a variety of industries and applications, including construction, aerospace and consumer goods. Anyone who manufactured or used these parts may have been exposed to asbestos.


01. Asbestos Use in Plastics

Why Was Asbestos Used in Plastics?

Asbestos was commonly added to molded plastic parts to increase durability, along with chemical and heat resistance. Manufacturers could quickly and cheaply mass-produce molded plastic parts of various sizes and shapes.

The first brand of plastic suitable for molded parts was a phenol-formaldehyde resin plastic called Bakelite. This plastic needed a filler to stabilize it and keep it from changing size or shape. Adding asbestos to these products stabilized them as they cooled. The mineral also added durability, heat protection and chemical resistance.

Plastics is a billion-dollar industry in the United States. Asbestos-containing plastic was used in thousands of products across dozens of industries. Asbestos plastics were used in aerospace construction and engineering, construction, consumer goods and architecture. Some of these uses include electrical insulation, tiles, brake linings, cookware and friction materials.

Asbestos Plastics History at a Glance

  • Other Names: Alkyd resins, asbestos-plastic resin, phenolics, rosin, rubber, shellac, thermosetting plastic, waxes
  • Years of Manufacture: 1907 – Present
  • Military Use: Barracks, bases, common areas, equipment, mess halls, ships
  • Places Used: Aircraft, automobiles, consumer goods, missiles
  • Asbestos Use Banned: No
  • Noteworthy Brands: Bakelite, Celotex Corporation, National Gypsum Company, Noramite
02. List of Asbestos Plastics

List of Asbestos Plastics

Asbestos plastics are found across a variety of products, industries and applications. Popular industries include automotive, aerospace, textiles and consumer goods. The risk of asbestos exposure through these products depends on a few factors.

Grinding, chopping or otherwise breaking down plastic could release asbestos fibers. This increases the danger of asbestos exposure. These activities may often be performed when repairing or removing materials that contain asbestos plastics.

But asbestos in molded plastics is not friable. This means it isn’t easily crumbled or disturbed. Simply handling intact molded asbestos plastic has a relatively minor risk of ingestion or inhalation of fibers.

Plastic parts that may contain asbestos include:

Numerous asbestos companies produced these plastic products across many industries. For instance, in the automotive industry, asbestos plastic could be found in parts like air conditioning housing, steering wheels, clutches and brake pads. For the aerospace industry, it was also popular for the construction of missiles.

Many consumer products contain asbestos plastic, too. Some of these uses include bearings, ducts, pulleys, casters and electrical circuit breakers.

Companies That Produced Asbestos Plastics

03. Plastics & Asbestos Exposure

Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Plastics?

Workers who handled raw asbestos and mixed it into plastics faced high risks of occupational asbestos exposure. These workers may have also unknowingly carried asbestos fibers home on their clothing or hair. This may have put family members at risk of secondary exposure.

Workers in other factories may have used asbestos-containing plastic materials while manufacturing different products. They may have been exposed to asbestos while performing typical job duties. Professionals or do-it-yourself mechanics may have experienced exposure when repairing or removing broken asbestos plastic.

Because plastics are used in so many applications, workers may have been exposed to asbestos in a wide range of industries. Construction workers, industrial workers, machine operators and plant managers are among some high-risk occupations for asbestos-related diseases.

Occupations at Risk of Exposure From Asbestos Plastics

04. Asbestos Lawsuits

Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation

Individuals exposed to asbestos in plastics are at risk of developing mesothelioma. Those diagnosed may be eligible to file mesothelioma lawsuits or other claims. Asbestos plastics lawsuits have resulted in millions of dollars in compensation for victims. A mesothelioma attorney can help victims understand their options.

Compensation Following Exposure to Asbestos Plastics

In recent years, asbestos plastics companies have faced lawsuits alleging their products exposed people to asbestos. In successful cases, victims have received compensation.

For example, in 2015, a former Durez Plastics employee received more than $5 million in a mesothelioma personal injury lawsuit. The patient and his father both worked at the company and handled raw asbestos fiber. They often brought asbestos dust home on their clothes.

Individuals may also be eligible for other types of claims, such as asbestos trust fund claims. Asbestos plastics companies such as National Gypsum Company, Celotex Corporation and Armstrong World Industries have established asbestos trust funds.

Financial compensation can help mesothelioma victims and their loved ones cover treatment expenses, lost income and other related costs. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma may suspect their exposure occurred through asbestos-containing plastics. An experienced asbestos attorney can look into these cases and explain the best options for compensation.