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The legacy of asbestos use: The Weyerhaeuser Company

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2022 | Asbestos

Lumber and wood products have long been a major industry in Washington and Oregon, and one of the longstanding players in this industry is the Weyerhaeuser Company. Unfortunately, this company frequently used asbestos—and exposed workers to this dangerous substance—for much of its over 120 years of operation.

The Weyerhaeuser Company has been a part of the Pacific Northwest for over a century.

The Weyerhaeuser Company has been a part of the economy in the state of Washington since 1900 where it began as a lumber company. Since then, the company has become one of the top producers of lumber, pulp and paper products, and this company employs thousands of people each year in several different states. These employees may work in their headquarters in Seattle as well as mills like those in Springfield, Longview, and Everett.

The use of asbestos in the lumber and paper industries is longstanding.

Wood, paper, and other wood-related products are highly flammable, and the pulping and papermaking processes require high heat. As a result, insulation and fireproofing are a significant concern for mills and other facilities. Asbestos’s heat-resistant properties made it a common part of many different components in these mills for decades.

Some of the many asbestos-containing materials that have been used in lumber, pulp, and paper mills include:

  • Insulation, including insulation for boilers, pipes, ductwork, and electrical equipment
  • Electrical breakers
  • Cement and siding
  • Roofing, including shingles
  • Fire protection products like spray-on fireproofing
  • Floor tiles
  • Adhesives
  • Dryer felts used for drying paper

Asbestos was also a common component in ships used by the Weyerhaeuser Company to transport lumber, pulp, and other products to other areas.

Many employees working at the Weyerhaeuser Company may have worked with asbestos-containing materials over the years. Workers in paper mills may have experienced exposure as a result of using, repairing, or maintaining machinery. Contractors building or updating older mills may have come into contact with building materials containing asbestos. Workers on transport ships were often surrounded by asbestos for the duration of their voyage.

Many corporations knew that asbestos was a health hazard for decades.

When released into the air, asbestos fibers can easily become lodged in the lungs of workers in the area. Over time, these fibers can lead to scarring in the lungs, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.  The fibers also attach to workers’ clothing; when those clothes are worn home the worker’s family members may also be exposed to the asbestos from the mill.

While the government restricted companies’ use of asbestos starting in the 1970s, the dangers of asbestos were known for decades before those laws were in place. In fact, some of the earliest research linking asbestos to health concerns dates back to the 1920s, and many companies were even aware of the risks while still using this hazardous material.

Studies indicate that employees like those employed by the Weyerhaeuser Company face increased risk of cancer. One 1997 study noted that work in pulp or paper mills has a strong link with cancer rates, including cancers related to asbestos exposure. Another study of Norwegian paper mill workers between 1920 and 1993 showed an increased risk of mesothelioma, especially for workers responsible for the maintenance of buildings and machinery.

If you or a loved one has experienced a mesothelioma diagnosis after working in the paper or lumber industry, it is important to explore your legal options. Our firm has achieved settlements for dozens of people harmed by asbestos exposure in Weyerhaeuser mills and other pulp and paper mills.  We have also successfully represented many family members of pulp and paper workers who developed mesothelioma due to secondhand asbestos exposure, including the families of Weyerhaeuser Company employees.