Years Operated: 1950s - Present
Headquarters: Norristown, Pennsylvania
Business: Manufactured cloth, wick, rope and other textiles
Asbestos Trust: Yes
Bankruptcy Status: Filed November 1, 1982, and reorganized on April 25, 1990
Amount in Trust: $16 million
Year Created: 1990
Amatex Corporation is a textile manufacturer based in Norristown, Pennsylvania, that began in the 1950s as the American Asbestos Textile Corp. The company has always specialized in products that can withstand extremely high temperatures. Such products include cloth, rope, wick, gaskets and insulation. Its subsidiary, NOR*FAB, makes fire-resistant synthetic material used in protective clothing for hazardous vocations like firefighting.
Like so many other textile manufacturers that focused on producing fireproof products before the 1980s, Amatex used asbestos. This naturally occurring mineral was valued because it was fireproof, cheap and could be easily added to other materials. Unfortunately for users of Amatex products, exposure to the mineral can cause diseases that include lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Amatex can be credited with its decision to stop incorporating asbestos into its products in the late 1970s, but the company knew long before then that it was hazardous. As a result, Amatex was one of the many manufacturers of the 20th century to face related litigation.
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After using asbestos in its products for many years, Amatex faced lawsuits. By 1982, the company was faced with more than 9,000 claims from former employees and users of their products. This forced Amatex to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the court ordered it to create a Creditors’ Committee of Asbestos Litigants to handle current asbestos claims.
Ernest Cleveland worked in a naval shipyard in the 1970s, using asbestos products from multiple manufacturers, including Amatex. Cleveland filed a lawsuit in July 1982. Two years previous to filing the case, he was diagnosed with asbestosis. Amatex settled with Cleveland before the case went to court; at trial Cleveland received $1.5 million from Celotex.
As part of the company’s reorganization from bankruptcy and effort to handle future claimants, Amatex also established the Amatex Asbestos Disease Trust Fund. During its first 10 years, the fund is estimated to have paid more than $11 million in settlements. Recent documents indicate the trust fund is inactive.
Amatex Corporation emerged from bankruptcy in 1990 and continues its operations today. Although it still manufactures and distributes heat-resistant materials, its products have been asbestos-free since the late 1970s. It was around this time when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its first ban on asbestos in patching compounds and companies began to take notice.
Information about specific Amatex products that contained asbestos is difficult to find. But since Amatex specialized in producing heat-resistant materials, it comes as little surprise that the mineral was a common ingredient in products like cloth and insulation.
Amatex’s products were used in a variety of industries, including the construction and shipyard industry. Both residential and commercial construction used asbestos significantly, and asbestos was one of the most popular materials found within shipyards. Some of the most at-risk jobs for exposure to Amatex asbestos products included manufacturer workers, insulation installers, pipefitters, boiler workers, and heating and air conditioning installers.
Amatex wasted little time incorporating asbestos into its products. It began manufacturing asbestos cloth, yarn, lap, thread, and cord in 1950. By 1962 the company was manufacturing asbestos wick, rope and tubing. Over the course of the next 20 years, up until its 1982 bankruptcy filing, Amatex produced products with the knowledge that it was hazardous for the workers who used and manufactured them.
Amatex purchased a Meredith, New Hampshire, asbestos plant from the Keasbey and Mattison Company in 1962 and continued manufacturing asbestos products there until 1982. Keasbey and Mattison started producing asbestos-containing products at the site in the 1930s.
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