By 2016, RPM had emerged as one of the top six coating companies worldwide, offering a diverse product line that ranged from industrial sealants to nail polishes. RPM bought out dozens of companies over the years and brought in nearly $5 billion worth of sales in 2016 after emerging from bankruptcy a few years prior.
Lawsuits, Bankruptcy, and an Asbestos Trust
RPM’s buyout of Reardon in the 1960s was profitable, but Reardon’s use of asbestos in its Bondex production line caused RPM to assume liability for asbestos-related diseases that resulted.
Their products included asbestos-laden cement and joint compounds, as well as finishing and coating products. By the 2010s, RPM faced upwards of twenty thousand legal suits due to Bondex’s asbestosis hazards, which led to settlements and verdicts for millions of dollars. This financial burden contributed to RPM ultimately filing for bankruptcy in 2010. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that as of 2014, Republic Powdered Metals had established Bondex Trust of $450 million to pay off asbestos personal injury claimants, including those who were injured by Bondex.1
People who worked construction, roofing, masonry, drywalling, and demolition or those who did these types of work on their own remodels might have encountered Bondex brands. People who worked with the potentially carcinogenic brands might also have encountered them under other names like Dramex or Bontone, Triko, or Mr. Mud.
The Future of RPM
Industrial workers and consumers alike were unknowingly put at risk for mesothelioma, pulmonary cancer, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases. Asbestosis can show up on chest x-ray within ten years of inhaling the toxic dust and fibers. Other cancers take longer to develop because the fibers embed in the lining of the lung and slowly cause damage.
Mesothelioma often will not appear for an average of 20 to 40 years, which means that those who worked with or around the carcinogenic products might have little to no knowledge of what caused or contributed to their disease by the time they’re diagnosed.