Years Operated: 1928-1978
Headquarters: Portsmouth, Virginia
Business: Originated as brass foundry and later produced asbestos brakes
Asbestos Trust: Yes
Bankruptcy Status: Filed in 2001
Amount in Trust: $307 million
Year Created: 2011
The Abex Corporation began in 1928 as the American Brake Shoe and Foundry. The Virginia-based company produced brakes and wheels for railroad cars. They also produced hydraulic systems for airplanes and ships, brake linings for cars and other basic friction parts.
Illinois Central Industries Inc., a railroad company that operated freight and passenger trains, bought Abex in 1968. A decade later, the parent company obtained Pneumo Corporation, an aerospace, food and drug company based in Boston. Abex and Pneumo merged to create the Pneumo Abex Corporation, which manufactured aerospace, industrial and fluid power products. The merger effectively shut down the original Abex manufacturing facility.
Abex heavily used asbestos in its products. They primarily used the fibers to prevent the products from sparking under friction and catching on fire. Abex continued to use asbestos in its products until it closed down in 1978. Several years later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the plant to their Superfund list for extreme soil contamination.
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Since its closure, many Abex employees have filed lawsuits against the company. One notable lawsuit was filed by a former pipefitter who developed mesothelioma after working for the company in the 1970s. The jury found Abex guilty of conspiracy for willingly concealing the dangers of asbestos exposure. The jury also ordered Abex to pay the plaintiff $20 million in damages.
Most of Abex Corporation’s employees performed metalworking duties. Because they came into frequent contact with raw asbestos (both in their products and the company equipment), these workers have an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Abex Corporation’s asbestos products also affected railroad and automobile industry workers. Employees who installed or repaired Abex asbestos parts were at risk for inhaling the fibers when operations released them into the air.
In 1990, the EPA declared that the Abex facility was one of the most hazardous waste sites in the country. By 1992, Abex Corporation began soil removal under orders from the government. Lead was the primary contaminant.
They also manufactured various other aerospace and industrial products.
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