“The Shasta Mill,” as the locals would come to call it, started production in late 1964 under the ownership of Kimberly-Clark. During its heyday the mill employed as many as 400 workers, represented by United Paperworkers International Union Local 1101, known locally as the “Shasta Paperworkers.” The mill originally produced coated “label” grades of paper for labels and textbooks, but later added an additional paper machine in 1975, which produced uncoated paper for companies such as Xerox. In 1972, the Simpson Lee Paper Company purchased the mill from Kimberly-Clark, giving it the official name of “Simpson Paper Company- Shasta Mill” in 1977. In 1999, the mill was sold again, to the “Plainwell Group,” which would shut it down just two years later.
Asbestos at Kimberly Clark Paper Mill
During the early 1960s when the Shasta Mill was constructed, asbestos was a common construction material. Valued for its insulating ability and fire-retardant properties, asbestos was frequently found in ceiling and floor tiles, pipe insulation, industrial adhesives, and a wide variety of other applications. Following the closure of the mill, state water quality officials have put pressure on the site’s current owners to undertake extensive environmental cleanup, including “asbestos issues that obviously need to be dealt with” inside the building. Asbestos containing materials are most dangerous when they are friable, meaning that they crumble easily when disturbed, creating small inhalable fibers. Mill workers who encountered crumbling or uncovered pipe insulation or damaged tiles may have been exposed to friable asbestos.
Harmful Asbestos Exposed Many Workers
In addition to asbestos hazards in the mill’s building materials, the paper industry itself may have exposed workers to harmful asbestos fibers. During the 1960s, Kimberly-Clark manufactured a sandpaper backing which contained asbestos. Asbestos was also present in complicated paper mill machinery, which maintenance workers would often be required to open and enter. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that pulp and paper industry maintenance workers were more likely to develop lung cancer than workers in other occupations. A 2005 study of Italian paper mill workers also found that workers who operated paper drying machines may have been exposed to asbestos.
Some of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure were understood as early as the 1930s. By the 1960s, a definitive link had been established between asbestos fibers and lung cancer. Unfortunately, employers and manufacturers continued to use asbestos without proper safety equipment until the late 1970s, placing untold numbers of workers at risk of serious harm. If you or a loved one worked at the Shasta Mill and suffered harm as a result of asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for compensation. Call Bergman Draper Oslund today, for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.