Crown Zellerbach Paper Mill and Asbestos
Workers at the Crown Zellerbach pulp and paper mills in WA were likely exposed to airborne asbestos fibers, even as late as the 1990s. These microscopic fibers were inhaled by workers, resulting in workers developing mesothelioma and other deadly illnesses decades later. Our mesothelioma lawyers at Bergman Oslund Udo Little have helped thousands of asbestos exposure victims recover substantial compensation.
Most asbestos exposure at paper mills like Crown Zellerbach occurred as a result of asbestos in steam equipment insulation, machinery components, and building construction materials. Workers exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing life-threatening illnesses later in life, yet there were no symptoms or warning signs that they were inhaling a toxic substance.
Crown Zellerbach failed to warn workers about the dangers of asbestos or provide meaningful protection. As a result, dozens of former workers and contractors developed mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer later in life. You may have also been exposed if you worked at Crown Zellerbach in Camas before the 1990s. Crown Zellerbach also operated paper mills in Port Townsend, Port Angeles, West Linn, and Wauna.
The first paper mill in the Pacific Northwest was established in 1867 in Oregon, and the Columbia River Paper Company was founded less than 20 years later in 1883. A 1905 merger with Crown Paper Company, followed by a merger with Zellerbach Corporation in 1928, resulted in the formation of the company now known as Crown Zellerbach. Crown Zellerbach was eventually purchased by James River, which was eventually purchased by Georgia-Pacific, one of the largest paper and forest product manufacturers in the world.
Asbestos and Industrialism in the Pacific Northwest
Asbestos was once considered a “miracle mineral” because its characteristics made it perfect for use in nearly every industry. It was strong, flexible, resistant to fire, insulating, non-conductive, chemically inert, lightweight, abundant, and inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is also the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Asbestos seemed like an ideal form of insulation for hot water pipes, buildings, boilers, and other industrial applications. It strengthened adhesives, improved paint performance, and provided concrete reinforcement. It was used in nearly every building component, including the floor tiles, drywall compound, and ceiling.
Industrial companies also heavily relied on asbestos for use in machinery, especially in components susceptible to friction, high heat, or high pressure, including the following:
- Pipe insulation
- Industrial adhesives
- Electrical wiring
All these building materials and industrial machinery parts were used in paper mills. Meanwhile, talc is commonly used in paper production to prevent sticking during production, improve paper smoothness, and absorb impurities. Unfortunately, talc is sometimes contaminated with asbestos. Drying machines and sandpaper used in paper mills also contained asbestos.
Asbestos Exposure at Crown Zellerbach
The Crown Zellerbach Camas paper mill in Clark County was constructed as asbestos was becoming popular in construction and industrial machinery.
Dryer felts at Crown Zellerbach were made of asbestos yarn containing significant asbestos levels. Dryer felts carried large sheets of wet paper through heated rollers, which dried the paper. This was done during the final phase of paper production.
Workers most likely to be exposed to asbestos at Crown Zellerbach include the following:
- Custodial staff
- Maintenance technicians
- Machine engineers and technicians
- Production workers during the late stages of production
- Building construction workers
Paper Mill Workers and Mesothelioma
A study published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine analyzed the risk of cancer in 7,988 soft paper mill workers employed for more than 10 years from 1960 to 2008 and found an increased incidence of pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer in paper mill workers compared to the general population.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is cancer of the thin membranes surrounding the lungs, stomach, heart, or testicles. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining around the lungs. Mesothelioma is aggressive and hard to treat. It has a poor prognosis, with a life span of less than a year in most cases.
Mesothelioma is often diagnosed during a late stage of the disease because symptoms often do not emerge until the disease has spread. Even when they are present, the symptoms are often vague, making them easy to mistake for more common conditions such as pneumonia. This contributes to the poor prognosis. The early symptoms of mesothelioma include the following:
- Chest pain
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
As mesothelioma progresses, these symptoms become more pronounced until extensive pain management is required. Supplemental oxygen may also become necessary.
The mesothelioma latency period can last 10 to 60 years, but most cases occur 20 to 50 years after the initial exposure.
How Does Asbestos Exposure Cause Mesothelioma?
When a paper mill worker inhales asbestos, it becomes embedded in the lungs. It sometimes travels to other body parts, such as the peritoneum, the lining around the stomach. The durability of asbestos fibers makes it impossible for the body to break them down, so millions of tiny fibers remain in place, causing inflammation and scarring over time, potentially leading to mesothelioma.
In addition to pleural mesothelioma, asbestos exposure can cause the following types of mesothelioma depending on where the fibers become embedded in the body:
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – Cancer of the lining surrounding the stomach
- Pericardial mesothelioma – Cancer of the lining surrounding the heart
- Mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis – Testicular mesothelioma
How Paper Mill Workers Can Get Legal Help
If you are a former Crown Zellerbach worker or contractor with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to recover significant financial compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
Our mesothelioma attorneys at Bergman Oslund Udo Little have helped hundreds of asbestos exposure victims get justice against the manufacturing companies that wrongfully exposed them to asbestos. In fact, we recently won $1.4 million for a 63-year-old former Crown Zellerbach worker exposed to asbestos in multiple workplaces throughout his life.
It is important that you contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer in Washington without delay. The state limits your time to file a mesothelioma lawsuit to three years after your diagnosis. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations, and you can forfeit your right to recover compensation if you miss it.
We have a proven track record of getting the highest mesothelioma settlements and verdicts in Washington, with more than $1 billion recovered since we started fighting for asbestos clients in 1995. We understand the toll a mesothelioma diagnosis takes on a family. We will provide zealous advocacy to get you the justice you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.