National Gypsum’s History with Asbestos
In 1925, National Gypsum was founded and began manufacturing a superior wallboard. This product was sold with a $5,000 “gold bond” guarantee that it would out-perform any other wallboard on the market.
National Gypsum became known for its guarantee and eventually patented the Gold Bond brand, under which it made many different types of asbestos-containing construction materials.
After acquiring numerous competitors, such as Universal Gypsum and Atlantic Gypsum, the company manufactured products under three primary brands including Gold Bond, ProForm and PermaBase.
National Gypsum incorporated asbestos into at least 30 different types of building materials. Asbestos was used to strengthen and fireproof these construction products.
The company stopped using asbestos in their products in the early 1980s. All of its current product lines are asbestos-free.
By 1985, National Gypsum was facing approximately 4,500 asbestos lawsuits.
Development of National Gypsum Trust
In an attempt to resolve asbestos litigation, National Gypsum joined an industrywide settlement known as the Wellington Agreement in 1985. The agreement established the National Claims Facility to handle asbestos claims, but it fell apart within three years.
Crumbling under a debt of more than $1 billion (primarily from asbestos litigation), National Gypsum filed for bankruptcy in October 1990. It emerged three years later and created the National Gypsum Corporation Settlement Trust to handle future asbestos claims. Nation Gypsum transferred more than $5 million in cash and $600 million in insurance policies to the trust.
By 1997, the trust was running out of funds to compensate future claims. Another bankruptcy filing was required in August 2002 to reorganize and properly fund the trust. In August 2003, a new trust called the National Gypsum Company Bodily Injury Trust was created and funded with $347 million to process future claims.
The trust’s current payment percentage is 41%. This percentage is significantly higher than most other asbestos trusts.
In January 2022, the trust’s operators reported more than $514 million has been paid to 215,930 claimants.
Asbestos Litigation Involving National Gypsum
By 1992, National Gypsum had been named in approximately 45,000 unresolved asbestos lawsuits. Many of these claims were settled out of court or dismissed, and a small percentage went to trial.
- In one 1987 settlement, the company paid $8.4 million to school districts across 19 states for damages caused by its asbestos products.
All pending suits were put on hold when the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990. These claims were processed when the trust opened in 1993. All asbestos claims have been handled by the trust since its inception.
National Gypsum Asbestos Products and Workers At Risk
Aside from its Gold Bond products, National Gypsum also manufactured the following asbestos-containing products:
- Ripple-Tone Panels
- Asbestos Cement Siding Shingles
- Chromatex Siding Shingles
- Chromatone Siding Shingles
- Chromoshake Siding Shingles
- Classic 32 Siding Shingles
- Classic Shake Siding Shingles
- Deeptex Siding Shingles
- Sussex 32 Siding Shingles
- Woodgrain Siding Shingles
- Insul-Best Panels
- National Gypsum Pliaboard
- Soffit Panels
- All-Purpose Joint Cement
- Crown Coat Cement
- Joint Cement
- Topping Cement
- Tri-Treatment Cement
- High Humidity Type C Acoustical Plaster
- Nacoustic Smooth Finish
- Nacoustic Standard
- Panelectric Groove Fill
- Perfect Spray
- Perfo-Lyte Acoustical Plaster
- Q-W Compound
- Rockwall Acoustical Plaster
- Spackling Compound
- Spackling Paste
- Spray Quick A
- Sta-Smooth Compound
- Thermo-Weld Compound
- Two-In-One Compound
- Type C Acoustical Plaster
- Velvet Triple-T Compound
- Vinyl Topping Compound
- Wesco Joint Treatment
- Wood Fibered Plaster 10 lb. Bag
Some of these products may have been sold under the Gold Bond label as well. They contained an average of 22% to 45% asbestos.
Workers at Risk
National Gypsum’s employees who manufactured asbestos-containing products experienced the greatest risk of asbestos exposure. Anyone who worked at one of the company’s factories was as risk because asbestos fibers circulated throughout the factories.
National Gypsum’s asbestos products reached far beyond the company’s own employees.
The following occupations were at risk of handling National Gypsum’s asbestos products:
- Construction workers
- Demolition crews
- Drywall workers
- Sheetrock workers
- Cement workers
- Acoustic workers
- Building maintenance workers
When workers in many of these occupations sawed, drilled or cut the company’s products, they released asbestos into the air. These fibers were easily inhaled by anyone working nearby.
A 2015 assessment by the Society for Risk Analysis highlights the dangers of asbestos exposure among drywall workers employed before the mid-1970s, when joint compounds contained chrysotile asbestos as a filler.
Sanding joint compound specialists were the group with the highest concentrations of chrysotile asbestos fibers and respirable dust concentrations. Specialists were followed by generalists and do-it-yourself renovators.
Exposure to asbestos put these workers at risk of developing related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Companies Acquired by National Gypsum Company
National Gypsum Company acquired a number of different companies through a series of mergers and reorganizations.
Employees of the following companies may have worked with asbestos products once their company became part of National Gypsum:
- Universal Gypsum
- Atlantic Gypsum
- Keene’s Cement
- Windsor Paper Mills Inc.
- National Mortar and Supply Company
- Abestone Corporation
- America Encaustic Tile
- Murray Tile
- Huron Portland Cement Company
- Allentown Portland Cement Company
- The Austin Company
National Gypsum History
In 1925, three entrepreneurs founded National Gypsum to produce light, flexible wallboard and products.
Throughout the 20th century, the company expanded its product lines to include plaster, acoustical tile and rock wool and dozens of other products, most of which contained asbestos.
During the 1940s, about 40% of the company’s production went to the war effort to produce housing materials for the U.S. armed forces.
In the 1960s, a chief executive reorganized the company into divisions. The Gold Bond Building Products division was the largest.
Following bankruptcy in 1990, the Gold Bond division was reintegrated back into National Gypsum through its reorganization in 1993.
Today, National Gypsum remains a top producer of gypsum wallboard and continues to manufacture products under the Gold Bond brand.