They later made products for many industrial settings such as shipbuilding, construction, and electrical companies. Westinghouse Electric used asbestos in its turbines, lightbulbs, welding rods, and insulation.
The turbines used by the Navy during World War II exposed engine room workers to hazards unbeknownst to the crews. Many who were exposed to asbestos developed mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.
A Westinghouse Electric Co patent from 1938 illustrates one of the ways asbestosis-inducing materials were used. This patent for a method of treating asbestos explains that the insulating material used on the coils of the electrical apparatus should be treated with a special silicate to resist abrasion.1
A 1974 patent explains that a flexible band comprised of several layers of different types of fiberglass and reinforced-asbestos is employed to form a portion of an exhaust expansion joint for a gas turbine exhaust system.2
These types of insulation were commonly used in such a manner prior to the 1970s for their heat-resistant properties. They were well-known by the federal government by this time to be harmful to anyone who might breathe in the carcinogenic particles. However, while corporations were aware of the risks, employees and members of the military were not informed of the health hazards associated with exposure to such products.
Lawsuits and Bankruptcy
Westinghouse began facing litigation and workers comp lawsuits prior to the 1990s for asbestos-related diseases. More litigation is underway due to the nature of how mesothelioma develops, as it can take many years for someone who was exposed to be diagnosed with the fatal disease.
In 2017, the Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland court battles were ongoing between the estate of one man who worked near a Westinghouse turbine in the 1970s and passed away from mesothelioma cancer in 2014.3
Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in 2017. Unlike many manufacturers that contributed to injuring so many people with asbestosis and other diseases, Westinghouse has thus far avoided filing for bankruptcy protection and therefore does not force those who have been injured to seek compensation through a trust fund devoted to asbestosis claims.
Since court battles typically offer better opportunities for injured parties to be fairly compensated for their illnesses, as opposed to the caps for claims allowed by the bankruptcy courts, people who have strong claims against Westinghouse for their injuries have the advantage to still be able to seek justice in court.4