In 1931, lumber giant Weyerhaeuser Corporation opened for business at Longview, Washington. This pulp mill largely sustained the company through the Great Depression, supplying pulp for paper and other wood-waste products.
Longview, WA, near Portland OR, is a city effectively formed by the lumber industry. The Long-Bell Timber Company and its leader, Missouri timber baron Robert A Long, recognized dwindling supplies of lumber and moved west.
Contracting city planner George Kessler, the Long-Bell company planned and built a city that would support the two mills planned. At its time of conception, it was impressive in magnitude, and built entirely with private funds.
Once built, it attracted other paper companies as well. Longview Fibre Paper & Packaging built a mill to make packaging from Douglas Fir waste generated by Long-Bell. Weyerhaeuser built a lumber mill on the opposite side in 1931.
And while the lumber industry built the city, the Weyerhaeuser Corporation helped sustain the city and the Weyerhaeuser Company through the Great Depression. Even still, workers in this industry paid a price.
Machinists at Weyerhaeuser were exposed to asbestos contained in pipe covering and boiler insulation, as well as packing for pumps and valves and fire retardant blankets.
Paperworkers were exposed to asbestos contained in the giant dryer felts formerly used to make paper. None of these workers were aware of the dangers of asbestos, which can cause asbestosis and mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer.
Before the 1970s, asbestos was a popular construction material. But as early as the 1930s, some of the dangers associated with asbestos exposure were understood. By the 1960s, a link had been established between asbestos and lung cancer.
Yet many companies like Weyerhaeuser continued to use asbestos. Fire retardant, insulating, and inexpensive, asbestos had many uses, particularly in a mill where fire was a constant threat.
Documents used in court in the 1970s demonstrate that asbestos companies understood the dangers of their product, yet companies like Weyerhaeuser continued to use the product.
Even Weyerhaeuser understood the risks of asbestos, and has seen litigation relating to its use from sailors in the 1940s, subjected to asbestos on company ships in engine rooms and sleeping quarters.
By 2002, Weyerhaeuser had been named a defendant in more than 2400 asbestos suits. Even still, they continued to use asbestos without proper precautions or safety equipment until the late 1970s.
Much of what is understood about asbestos and its link to mesothelioma was not known in the early days of Longview. But those days are long gone. The Weyerhaeuser Paper Mill in Longview seems to have fixed the asbestos problems.
But the after-effects to those workers who had been exposed to asbestos without proper protection continues.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by asbestos exposure in Longview or another site, contact Bergman Draper Oslund for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, and receive the justice you deserve.