W.R.’s spray insulations, fireproofing sprays, cementing and plastering products, and surfacing and texturing paints were heatproof and strong but caused mesothelioma cancer. Inhaling or accidentally swallowing their sprays caused mesothelioma of the lungs and abdomen in many workers.
Harmful Products and Health Consequences
The company also mined vermiculite, an insulation material, from asbestos mines in Maryland that caused a high rate of disease. Asbestos miners developed mesothelioma at alarming rates compared to others who worked with the toxic mineral.
Hundreds of thousands of people sued W.R. & Co. for product injuries and wrongful deaths associated with working for W.R. in factories or mines, from exposure to the company’s asbestosis-inducing products through construction contracting work, and because of secondhand exposure.
Secondhand exposure occurred because workers came home with their bodies and uniforms caked in asbestos fibers and dust. These particles spread to family members who washed their laundry or shared their living space.
Not knowing they were bringing home harmful materials to their households, workers came home after a long day and thought nothing of sitting down on the couch or going to bed without first washing off the asbestos dust and fibers from their clothes and bodies.
In this way, many wives and children of asbestos workers later developed mesothelioma cancer through no fault of their own.
This experience was especially prevalent among families whose loved ones worked in the mines. Many workers who worked in manufacturing plants or worked construction jobs were also affected.
Bankruptcy and Asbestos Trusts
People who lived near asbestos mines were also sickened due to asbestos dust flooding the area. The EPA got involved in the 2000s, forcing W.R. to clean up its environmental hazards affecting human health. The federal government also charged W.R. Grace and Company officials with knowing about the environmental and health hazards but covering up and minimizing the risks associated with what the company was doing.
W.R. filed bankruptcy in 2001 and created asbestos trusts to compensate asbestosis victims and pay off contamination claims after W.R. Grace reorganized in 2014.