These products were used in train engines and construction. Their products were used across a myriad of industries ranging from schools to shipyards, which put thousands of people at risk despite the company knowing the dangers of asbestos to workers and the public.
Harmful Products and Health Consequences
Hundreds of thousands of people who worked at Porter and with the company’s products were put at risk for illness. None of them were informed of the dangers associated with asbestos-laden products or even told that they were working with materials that could be toxic. Insulation workers were at high risk of inhaling asbestos fibers and dust contained in the insulation.
Ripping this insulation stirred the dust into the air, which the workers would then breathe into their lungs. Engineers also were at risk and worked in close quarters to the toxins. Railroad workers and metalworkers were likewise exposed and often developed illness due to their lines of work. Mechanics, contractors, and construction workers who came into contact with engines of locomotives were also at risk, as was anyone who worked in the spaces that contained asbestos-laden products.
By 1980, H.K. Porter Inc. was drowning in litigation and claims by thousands of former workers as well as others who had been diagnosed with asbestos-related disease from coming into contact with their dangerous products. Some of the plaintiffs were dying of asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma as a result of inhaling the toxins.
Others suffered secondhand exposure due to their husbands and fathers coming home wearing toxic fibers and dust that were often embedded into clothing and made its way into household items like couches and carpets.
Lawsuits, Bankruptcy, and an Asbestos Trust
By the middle of the 1990s, the company faced more than a hundred thousand asbestos lawsuits. All of this expensive litigation drove the company into bankruptcy. When getting out of bankruptcy, the company was instructed by the court to put aside a trust fund for paying victims. At the time of the company’s bankruptcy, it was estimated that H.K. Porter Inc. has already paid more than $300 million to settle asbestos claims.
The company is still paying off asbestos-related claims today.
Porter will likely face many more asbestos lawsuits and injury claims due to the nature of how asbestos-related disease develops from being exposed to these toxins. The carcinogens slowly do damage. When breathed in, asbestos-containing dust and fiber remain in the body to cause disease over many years. Mesothelioma and other deadly asbestos-related diseases can take more than 10-40 years to show symptoms. Anyone who spent time working at Porter or with their products should consider getting tested for lung disease. Many people do not know they are suffering from serious disease until decades after they have already quit their jobs or retired.1