Weyerhaeuser Mill, Cosmopolis
The Weyerhaeuser Corporation, established in 1900, operated paper mills throughout Washington State and the Pacific Northwest. Weyerhaeuser’s mill in Cosmopolis Washington began production in 1957, as a paper grade sulfite pulp mill. In 1962, the company converted it to a dissolving and specialty grade sulfite pulp mill. Although Weyerhaeuser ceased its Cosmopolis operations in 2006, Cosmo Specialty Fibers purchased the mill in 2010 and plans to produce 140,000 pounds of industrial pulp.
In the mid-20th century, the paper mill industry made use of asbestos 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.
During the 1950s when the Cosmopolis 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. 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 exposed materials containing asbestos may have been exposed to these dangerous fibers.
In the early 1990s, Weyerhaeuser undertook an $18.3 million cleanup of asbestos at the Cosmopolis mill property. This took place during a period when Weyerhaeuser faced extensive liability and litigation related to environmental cleanup. In Weyerhaeuser vs. Easter, the company argued that “the health and safety of workers, combined with a corporate directive, required the[Cosmopolis] mill to remove all PCB’s and asbestos.” The Washington State Supreme Court agreed, finding that asbestos removal was a business necessity.
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 Weyerhaeuser’s Cosmopolis 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.