Owens-Illinois, Inc.

owens illinois inc logo
  • Founded: 1929
  • Years Operated: 1929 - Present
  • Headquarters: Perrysburg, Ohio
  • Business: Manufactured glass containers and insulation
  • Asbestos Trust: No
  • Bankruptcy Status: Not bankrupt


Owens-Illinois was formed in 1929 as a result of a merger between the Owens Bottle Company and the Illinois Glass Company, two competing glass container manufacturers at the time. The company was one of the first to mass-produce glass bottles and jars for commercial use.

During the Clutch Plague, the company’s experiments with glass filaments led to the invention of fiberglass, which the company marketed by joining forces with competitor Corning Glass to create Owens Corning Fiberglas in 1935. By 1938, Owens Corning was a separate entity even though Owens-Illinois continued to own a large share of the new enterprise. In 1949, an antitrust ruling barred Owens and Corning from privately controlling Owens Corning and the joint venture that was formed was forced to go public.

Litigation & Specific Lawsuits

Between 1948 and 1958, Owens-Illinois manufactured a line of asbestos pipe and boiler insulation products under the brand name Kaylo, which it sold to Owens Corning in 1958. Even with the hazards of asbestos known, Owens-Illinois manufactured asbestos insulation products under the Kaylo name until 1972. The production of asbestos-containing products has caused former employees to develop asbestos-related diseases and many have since filed lawsuits against the company.

The first asbestos-related lawsuit against Owens-Illinois was filed in 1981 and by 1997 the company was forced to settle an estimated 210,000 asbestos cases. Owens-Illinois is still listed as a defendant in asbestos-related litigation today.

On March 11, 2011, an Illinois jury awarded mesothelioma patient Charles Gillenwater a total of $90 million in damages against Owens-Illinois, Honeywell International Inc., Pneumo Abex and John Crane Inc. In the 1970s, Gillenwater was employed on a variety of construction sites as a pipefitter and was exposed to asbestos through the named company’s products. Gillenwater alleged the defendants used asbestos in their products despite having evidence of its health risks.

Exposed to Asbestos at Owens-Illinois, Inc.?

Gain access to trust funds, grants and other forms of compensation for you or your loved ones.

Get Help Now

Industries & Occupations

People who worked in the factories that manufactured asbestos-containing products made by Owens-Illinois were certain to face exposure hazards on a regular basis. The company’s products that were marketed under the brand name Kaylo were made of about 15 percent asbestos. During the post-World War II housing boom, these insulation products were some of the most popular.

In addition to those who worked directly in Owens-Illinois manufacturing facilities, people who worked with their products out in the field also faced asbestos exposure hazards. Construction workers who were insulation installers and pipefitters were most at risk for exposure. Other occupations like drywall installers, electricians and plumbers may have come across asbestos products manufactured by Owens-Illinois.

Medical Warnings

As early as 1948, the director of research for Owens-Illinois, A.J. Vorwald of Saranac Laboratories, conducted tests on guinea pigs using Kaylo dust. After the guinea pigs were exposed to asbestos-containing dust for more than 30 months, he found “unmistakable evidence of asbestosis.” Owens-Illinois failed to act on this information and continued the use of asbestos in their products.

Free VA Claims Assistance

Get Help Now

Qualify for Free Medical Care

See If You Qualify

Get Help Paying for Treatment

Learn More

Matt Mauney

Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined 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 advancements. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits some of the pages on the website.

  1. Owens-Illinois. (2012). The O-I Difference at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.o-i.com/About-O-I/Company-Facts/
  2. Paquette, J.K. (2010). The Glassmakers, Revisited: A History of Owens-Illinois. Xlibris, Corporation.
  3. Funding Universe. Owens-Illinois, Inc. History. Retrieved from http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/OwensIllinois-Inc-Company-History.html
  4. Bowker, M. (2003). Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos is Killing America. New York, NY: Touchstone.
  5. Pantagraph.com. (2011, Mar. 11). McLean County Jury Awards $90 Million in Asbestos Suit. Retrieved from http://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/article_a1b050c2-4c67-11e0-bd06-001cc4c002e0.html

View our resources for patients and families

Get Help Today
Get Your Free Mesothelioma Guide