Plibrico Company, originally known as the Pliable Brick Company, began operations in 1914 by manufacturing aluminosilicate and high alumina monolithic refractories. The pliable refractory material could be molded to fit any shape, unlike static firebrick materials that fit only a fixed shape. Plibrico used asbestos in its products to ensure they could withstand high heat.
The company was founded by W.A.L. Schaeffer, who recognized the need for pliable firebrick material in cargo ships during World War I. Pliable firebrick, also called monolithic or unshaped refractories, were considered advantageous because the product could be molded onsite into a single structure to fit high-heat areas. Other types of refractory materials had to be constructed off-site and shipped. Schaeffer’s invention was a precursor to the plastic refractories used today.
How was the Plibrico Trust formed?
Although medical journals were reporting asbestos-related diseases as early as the 1920s, most companies ignored the repeated warnings from medical experts. Plibrico used the dangerous mineral for decades without warning its workers or anyone who came into contact with its products.
By the 1980s, Plibrico faced scores of lawsuits for its reckless use of asbestos. Pivotal legal actions concerning the company’s asbestos use came in the 1990s after lawsuits from a patient who suffered from malignant mesothelioma and the New Jersey Local 475 Steamfitters II union.
To avoid collapsing under the weight of the legal and financial problems, Plibrico filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The Plibrico Asbestos Trust formed on March 1, 2006, through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Illinois.
Like all other asbestos trusts, the Plibrico trust has a limited amount of funds to pay claimants. When the trust opened, it paid 1.2 percent. The amount was raised to 1.36 percent in 2016. That means claimants receive 1.36 percent of the amount requested. This allows for an even distribution of funds across all claimants.
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Plibrico Asbestos Exposure
Refractory materials became popular in the early to mid 20th century as the United States industrialized. It was used to line furnaces, kilns, incinerators and other high-heat producing machinery.
To make refractory products, Pilbrico used asbestos because of its high heat resistance. Since asbestos fibers are lightweight and microscopic they can be easily mixed with other products to improve tensile strength and heat, chemical and fire resistance.
Plibrico employees and their families were exposed to asbestos every day because the company used asbestos in its products. Anyone who handled the products or worked nearby was vulnerable to exposure. In addition, workers who installed Plibrico refractory materials were also exposed.
Plibrico High Risk Occupations
Plibrico’s pliable firebrick products were produced in factories in states that include Ohio and Illinois. The company has its corporate headquarters in Chicago and has international offices in Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador.
All Plibrico employees are at risk of developing mesothelioma following asbestos exposure. At the same time, workers in other industries are also at risk of developing diseases related to exposure to Plibrico asbestos-containing products. These high-risk occupations include the following:
- Steamfitters/Pipefitters – Steamfitters and pipefitters plan, assemble, install and maintain pipes that carry liquids or gases throughout businesses, homes and municipalities. In some cases, these pipes carry chemicals or acids so it is very important they be insulated with refractory materials. Fitters are at a high risk of being exposed to pliable refractory materials that contain asbestos.
- Boiler Workers – Boiler workers assemble, install and maintain large containers that hold liquids and gases that generate electricity or heat, called boilers. To keep the boilers at a constant temperature and protect the surrounding area, boilers are often covered or lined with insulation products that contain asbestos. Boiler workers, boilermakers and boiler operators can be exposed to asbestos every day.
- Insulators – Insulation workers replace, repair and install insulation in buildings and mechanical systems. They work on pipes, electrical systems and other mechanisms that need upkeep to prevent temperature extremes. Insulators also install insulation in attics, basements and behind walls, where air circulation is poor. They often work in areas where old asbestos-laden insulation was used.
- Furnace Operators – Furnace operators keep the large appliances in optimal working condition to ensure they continually produce heat and energy. Furnaces run on gas, oil, coal, oxygen and electricity and can be lined with refractory or insulating materials that contain asbestos. Furnace operators are exposed to asbestos when they perform general maintenance to keep the machinery in operating condition.
Plibrico Settlements and Payments
Trust fund claimants have two choices for payment: Expedited or individual review.
Asbestos victims who choose expedited reviews receive quicker access to cash payments because the reviews are easier for the trust administrators (also called trustees) to process.
Victims who choose individual reviews typically receive larger settlement amounts but the reviews take longer. Most asbestos victims are exposed through a number of sources, so they often file claims on several asbestos trusts. Claimants must meet medical and exposure criteria established by the trust to successfully file a claim.
The following is a schedule of values for Plibrico expedited-review claims:
|Other Asbestos Diseases||$1,500|
Plibrico Asbestos Products
Like other companies of its time, Plibrico used asbestos in its products from the company’s early years through the 1970s. Any of Plibrico’s asbestos-containing products may remain in homes and businesses today. Some of the company’s more popular early products include the following:
- Plibrico jointless firebrick – Jointless firebricks were shipped in 100-pound containers from plants in Chicago, New Jersey and Canada. For installation, workers pounded into place two-inch thick pieces of firebrick using a steel hammer or pneumatic rammer. The firebricks were then trimmed, using trowels or other sharp-edged tools, for a smooth look.
- Demon high-temperature cement – Used for laying firebricks, the Demon products came in air-set and heat-set varieties. The air-set product was advertised as an all-purpose wet cement that set upon exposure to air. The heat-set product was in a dry powder form that was mixed with water on location. It required heat to set.
- Plibrico Plicast and Air Set – Castable refractories are powder products that are combined with water to be applied to high-heat areas. The products are applied via troweling, pouring, vibrating and dry or wet gunning. In a dry form, castable powder containing asbestos can release the dangerous fibers into the air, where they can linger for hours.
Other Plibrico products include Pilseal boiler wall coating and Plicast LWI-24G.
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- Dixon, Lloyd. “Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: An Overview of Trust Structure and Activity with Detailed Reports on the Largest Trusts”. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR872.html
- Sarkar, Ritwik. “Refractory Technology: Fundamentals and Applications”. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=8ysNDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA241&lpg=PA241&dq=W.A.L.+Schaeffer+and+Plibrico&source=bl&ots=1uKSfk_Eup&sig=HRzCSXbq7np7iD_m3WG4sZYQ3I0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjvm8mji5LbAhVK3FMKHa9fCscQ6AEIWTAG#v=onepage&q=W.A.L.%20Schaeffer%20and%20Plibrico&f=false
- Plibrico products catalog. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/PlibricoRefractoryProductsGeneralCatalogCoveringPlibricoJointless/PlibricoJointlessFirebrickCompanyCca49775#page/n13/mode/2up/search/asbestos