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North American Refractories Co.

  • Year Founded: 1929

North American Refractories Company made asbestos refractory materials. Asbestos litigation forced the company to file for bankruptcy in 2002. An asbestos trust fund was established in 2013 with $6.32 billion to compensate victims.

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NARCO’s History with Asbestos

North American Refractories Company, also known as NARCO, formed in 1929 and became one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of asbestos refractory materials, which are heat-resistant products used to line high-temperature equipment such as furnaces.

North American Refractories Co. Facts:
  • Founded: 1929
  • Years Operated: 1929 - Present
  • Headquarters: Cleveland, Ohio
  • Business: Refractories such as ceramics, hearths and related products
  • Asbestos Trust: Yes
  • Bankruptcy Status: Filed 2002, reorganized 2008

NARCO developed heat-resistant products when asbestos use was prevalent because of the mineral’s durability and fireproof nature. Through various mergers and strategic acquisitions, the company’s product line expanded to cover more than just refractories, adding products such as furnace fittings, coating installations, ceramics and brake pads and linings.

The company’s ceramic refractories lined furnaces that were essential to the manufacturing of cement, lime, chemicals, nonferrous metals, glass, iron and steel. The addition of asbestos fibers to the ceramic refractories made these furnaces able to withstand temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis.

At NARCO’s plant in Mount Union, Pennsylvania, refractories were manufactured out of ganister rock, which is a local and naturally occurring sandstone with high silicon dioxide content.

The ganister was pulverized into a powder and mixed with asbestos and other bonding agents until the 1970s, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began regulating the use of asbestos in products.

Development of NARCO Asbestos Trust

NARCO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002. It emerged from bankruptcy and reorganized in 2008.

Reorganization established the NARCO Asbestos Trust on April 30, 2013, with initial funding in the amount of $6.32 billion. The trust reportedly paid out more than $100 million in its first year.

According to trust documents, the current payment percentage is set at 100%, which is abnormally high compared to other asbestos trusts.

Honeywell, which owned NARCO from 1979 to 1986, was assigned the company’s asbestos liabilities through NARCO’s bankruptcy. This means Honeywell is responsible for alleged injuries caused by its own asbestos-containing products as well as claims against now bankrupt companies supplied by NARCO.

During the 1970s and 1980s, NARCO manufactured asbestos brake pads and linings sold to other companies. These products reportedly sickened thousands of workers and customers, many of whom have filed asbestos claims.

Because mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases carry a decades-long latency period, NARCO and Honeywell are likely to face additional asbestos claims for years to come.

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Asbestos Litigation Involving NARCO

NARCO faced a significant number of personal injury claims throughout its history, like many other former asbestos manufacturers. By 2003, the company reportedly was named in more than 275,000 asbestos claims and reached agreements with 256,000 of them, or roughly 90%.

  • In a June 2001 case involving five plaintiffs, the victims received a ruling of $130 million against NARCO and Dresser Industries for the companies’ roles in endangering the plaintiffs’ lives with asbestos use.

  • In July 2001, a Texas jury ordered NARCO to pay $6.1 million in damages to Joseph Breaux, who developed mesothelioma after working as a pipefitter for the company. Breaux was exposed to asbestos working with NARCO’s Narcocast, a castable refractory mix.

NARCO’s Asbestos Products & Workers at Risk

NARCO products that contained asbestos include:

  • Unicote

  • Narcocrete

  • Narcogun

  • Narcocast

  • Gun Mix

  • Narcmag

  • Narcolite

  • Aerogun

  • Stazon

Several types of workers helped in the making of NARCO’s refractories and other products. Cement workers, chemical workers, steel and metal workers and engineers all assisted in the manufacturing process.

A large portion of NARCO’s products played roles in industrial processes and required resistance to extremely high temperatures.

Other occupations exposed to NARCO’s asbestos products include:

  • Pipefitters

  • Shipyard workers

  • Boiler workers

  • Railway workers

  • Paper mill workers

  • Textile mill workers

  • Oil refinery workers

  • Power plant workers

  • Rubber factory workers

  • Automobile factory workers

  • Members of the armed forces

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Writer and Editor

Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of professional writing and editing experience. He joined The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com in 2016, and he spends much of his time reading, analyzing and reporting on mesothelioma research articles to ensure people in the mesothelioma community know the latest medical advances. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a Community Manager at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits pages, articles and other content on the website. He holds a certificate in health writing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at Asbestos.com
Edited by

12 Cited Article Sources

  1. HarbisonWalker International. (2019). A New Era of Intensity.
    Retrieved from: http://thinkhwi.com/about-us/
  2. NARCO Asbestos Trust. (2018, July 18). NARCO Worksite List.
    Retrieved from: http://www.claimsres.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/NARCO-Worksite-List_updated-as-of-07-18-2017.pdf
  3. Claims Audit Program. (2017, April 6). North American Refractories Company Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust.
    Retrieved from: http://www.claimsres.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Claims-Audit-Program_NARCO.pdf
  4. NARCO Asbestos Trust. (2016, October 17). NARCO Frequently Asked Questions.
    Retrieved from: http://www.claimsres.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/NARCO-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf
  5. Montgomery, J. (2016, October 14). Honeywell Invokes Public Right To Ch. 11 Asbestos Docs.
    Retrieved from: https://www.law360.com/articles/851590/honeywell-invokes-public-right-to-ch-11-asbestos-docs
  6. Guarnaccia, M. (2016, September 21). Honeywell Slams Trust's Referee Pick In Asbestos Claim Fight.
    Retrieved from: https://www.law360.com/articles/842522/honeywell-slams-trust-s-referee-pick-in-asbestos-claim-fight
  7. Honeywell International Inc. (2012). Form 10-K.
    Retrieved from: http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/773840/000093041312000976/c68029_10k.htm
  8. RAND Institute for Civil Justice (2010). Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts: An Overview of Trust Structure and Activity with Detailed Reports on the Largest Trusts.
    Retrieved from: http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/2010/RAND_TR872.pdf
  9. Mcleod, D. (2003, April 1). Honeywell settles asbestos liabilities with Equitas.
    Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20030401/NEWS/20002178/honeywell-settles-asbestos-liabilities-with-equitas
  10. Ceramic Industry Magazine. (2000, September 28). RAT - Investing In Ceramics: The Making of a Refractories Giant.
    Retrieved from: http://www.ceramicindustry.com/articles/87503-rat-investing-in-ceramics-the-making-of-a-refractories-giant
  11. NARCO Asbestos Trust. (n.d.). Home.
    Retrieved from: https://www.narcoasbestostrust.org/
  12. Floor Daily (n.d.). Honeywell Expects to Make $110 Million in Asbestos. Retrieved from: http://www.floordaily.net/flooring-news/Honeywell_Expects_To_Make_110_Million_In_Asbestos.aspx
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Last Modified October 3, 2019

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