Owens Corning not only used asbestos in its insulation products, but also its roofing tiles and siding panels. In 2000, Owens Corning filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. By 2006, the Owens Corning Fibreboard Asbestos Personal Injury Trust was created. The Owens Corning Fibreboard trust is funded with $1.6 billion, making it one of the largest asbestos trusts.
When two major glassworks corporations — Corning Glass and Owens-Illinois — merged in 1935, Owens Corning Fiberglass Corporation became the world’s largest fiberglass manufacturer. The company was the first to manufacture fiberglass insulation, which became the insulation of choice in homes and businesses nationwide. Fiberglass insulation, which is made from fine glass fibers, was popular during the post-World War II housing expansion. Owens Corning was tremendously successful with it first year sales topping $2.5 million. The insulation quickly became known for its pink color and Pink Panther spokestoon. The company was also known for its fiberglass-reinforced plastics that were used in roofs, boats and car bodies, among other places.
When fiberglass insulation became such a hit, Owens Corning incorporated asbestos into the materials because of its fire and heat resistance and insulating properties. Asbestos was cheap and easy to get, making it the perfect material for the burgeoning company. In 1997, the company acquired Fibreboard Corp, which made asbestos-containing flooring and industrial insulation. Owens Corning’s website said although the company sold fewer than one percent of all asbestos-containing products, it sold 30 percent of certain widely used products with strong brand recognition.
Homeowners who used the company’s insulation products and people who worked in buildings where the insulation was used may have been exposed to asbestos. The company’s insulation was also widely used on U.S. Navy ships and other cargo ships. As a result, shipyard workers, military veterans and their family members were often exposed to asbestos. Because of the wide reach of the company, there were many occupations that were put at risk for asbestos exposure. The following occupations are considered high risk:
By the mid 1980s, the onslaught of took its toll on Owens Corning. Nearly 85,000 injured workers, family members and consumers filed lawsuits. The acquisition of Fibreboard Corp. only added to the number of asbestos lawsuits. In one case, a Florida jury awarded a man a staggering $31 million in punitive damages and $1.8 in compensatory damages. During the 1999 court case, evidence showed that Owens Corning had concealed information about the dangers of asbestos from its employees and consumers. That includes advertising its popular Kaylo insulation product as non-toxic when the company knew asbestos was a carcinogen.
The Owens Corning trust payments are paid at 8.8 percent. The Owens Corning Fibreboard trust payments are paid at 7.6 percent. This is among the lowest percent payments within the larger trusts.
Owens Corning was well known for its groundbreaking insulation products. Most of its products contained asbestos until the early to mid 1970s. The following are some of the more popular asbestos-containing products:
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