Weyerhaeuser’s presence in Everett Washington began in 1902. For 90 years, the company engaged in a variety of activities in Everett including sulfite pulp manufacturing, saw milling, ship building, shingle milling, and log handling. At the height of its operation as a pulp mill, Weyerhaeuser’s Everett facility produced 300 tons of pulp each day. By the late 20th century, Everett’s economy began to lean toward more high-tech industries, such as aerospace. Weyerhaeuser phased out its operations in Everett in a series of steps from 1980 to the closure of its last site in 1992.
Prior to the late 1970s, 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.
Weyerhaeuser left a tremendous environmental mark on the City of Everett. Cleanup at the company’s Mill A site, which closed in 1980, continues to this day. In 2009, the Port of Everett solicited bids for asbestos abatement at a former Weyerhaeuser building, including removal of attic insulation. An engineer hired by the port estimated project costs at approximately $50,000.
In addition to asbestos hazards in the mill’s building materials, the pulp and paper industry itself may have exposed workers to harmful asbestos fibers. Asbestos was 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 like Weyerhaeuser 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 one of Weyerhaeuser’s Everett locations 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