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Kaiser Aluminum Corporation

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Kaiser used asbestos in its products for several decades, leaving thousands of workers susceptible to asbestos injuries. In early 2000, Kaiser was facing more than 100,000 asbestos claims and strain from a labor dispute. To manage the financial burden, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2006. The Kaiser Asbestos Trust was started with $1.2 billion.

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When Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. began operations in 1946, it was made up of two aluminum reduction facilities and an aluminum rolling mill. Over the years, Kaiser expanded its reach into aluminum mining, manufacturing and distribution. It was involved in almost every facet of the aluminum industry.

At first, Henry Kaiser leased three aluminum facilities in Washington state that were owned by the United States government. Kaiser Aluminum eventually purchased the land and grew to 12 facilities across the nation. Kaiser Aluminum is just one of the many companies started by Henry Kaiser. He was also known as an aluminum and steel mogul who had a hand in dozens of industries.

Occupational Exposure

Kaiser had several plant sites, including one in Foothill City, California and several Washington state locations. There are several occupations that are at risk:

  • Construction Workers
  • Welders
  • Manufacturing
  • Metal Work
  • Shipbuilding and Shipping
  • Steel Workers
  • Plant Operators
  • Cold and Hot Rollers
  • Casters

Asbestos Usage

In the 1950s, the company’s aluminum products could be found in all functions of construction and the military. Asbestos was used because of its high heat, chemical and fire resistance throughout Kaiser plants. Some examples include its use on aluminum smelters, which extract aluminum from oxide, to prevent conducting electrical current. Asbestos was also used in the heavy machinery on the plants and in protective clothing. The company also used asbestos to produce protective fireboards for U.S. Navy ships and other ships. Asbestos was also used in the company’s buildings and offices.

Asbestos was regularly used in Kaiser products from the company’s birth through the early 1980s. Due to the wide reach of Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. there is the potential for widespread asbestos exposure. Many Kaiser products may still remain in buildings, construction materials and shipyards today.

Types of Asbestos Products

From the beginning, Kaiser was involved in all variations of aluminum work. The company’s products that put workers and bystanders at the most risk include the following:

  • Metal-encased firebrick
  • Block insulation
  • Finishing cement
  • Wool cement
  • Insulating cement
  • Building panel and siding
  • Raw asbestos fiber
  • Plastic chrome ore
  • Fireboard
  • Shipbuilding materials

Asbestos Products

From floor to ceiling, there were dozens of materials that used asbestos. While most of these products are no longer on the market, some of Armstrong’s products still contain asbestos. Government regulations allow some asbestos to be used in some products still. Armstrong World Industry used the following products that contained asbestos:

  • Limpet – Armstrong’s Limpet spray insulation, which was commonly known as flock insulation, was used from 1960 to 1973 and was completely made from asbestos. It was removed from the market because it was vulnerable to impact damage and water penetration.
  • Insulation Board – Used as a standard fire, heat and acoustic insulation, the insulation boards contained between 25 and 40 percent asbestos fiber. These boards were vulnerable to impact damage and deterioration.
  • Vinyl Flooring – Asbestos was also used as an insulator in these tiles. They are known to become brittle and break.

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