Frank Sullivan founded Republic Powdered Metals (RPM) in 1947 to manufacture an exclusive protective coating known as Alumanation. The company expanded over the next several years, going on to produce other industrial maintenance products such as waterproofing and rustproofing materials.
Republic Powdered Metals purchased Reardon Company in 1966, adopting its successful Bondex brand. While the purchase significantly expanded the company’s product line, many Reardon Co. products contained dangerous asbestos materials. Ultimately, RPM inherited liability for future asbestos lawsuits filed against Reardon Co.
Over the next four decades, the company acquired additional brands, including Rustoleum and BF Goodrich. By 2010, it operated 90 manufacturing facilities in more than 20 countries. That year, despite a “healthy and profitable” business, RPM filed for bankruptcy under the strain of more than 10,000 asbestos lawsuits.
A majority of the lawsuits filed against RPM stem from Reardon Company’s asbestos-containing Bondex products. In their 2010 bankruptcy filing, RPM reported more than 20,000 asbestos lawsuits that specifically name Reardon Company’s products as the source of asbestos exposure. The vast majority of these Reardon lawsuits came from six states: Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Maryland, Illinois and Ohio.
One such lawsuit, filed by a Texas-based painter, resulted in a verdict of approximately $11 million. Of the four product manufacturers named in the suit, Bondex was the only company not to agree on a settlement. Instead, Bondex went to trial, where the judge assigned them partial responsibility for the worker’s mesothelioma diagnosis.
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Republic Powdered Metals sold Reardon Company’s asbestos compounds until the early 1980s. The Bondex line of products included exterior finishing systems, powder coatings, fluorescent colorants and pigments, cleaning products, wood treatments and fuel additives. RPM also sold asbestos roofing products and sealants through other product lines until 1972.
RPM distributed these products to consumers in private and industrial sectors in 150 different territories. While 60 percent of its current sales come from industrial products, the remaining 40 percent comes from private consumers. As a result, people may have unknowingly inhaled asbestos released from RPM products in their homes or workplaces.
Other than RPM employees, industrial workers such as masons, painters and roofers were at the highest risk for inhaling asbestos from Bondex products. Homeowners who purchased the products to use in their own houses also faced exposure risks. These risks are relatively low for asbestos-containing textured coatings (such as RPM’s Dramex Texture Pain), but other products posed higher risks.
Other examples include Triko products and Mr. Mud products.
Bondex defended its first asbestos lawsuit in 1980. From then until 1999, RPM paid a total of $1.6 million in asbestos-related lawsuits. However, this amount drastically spiked beginning in 2000.
The latency period associated with asbestos-related diseases may explain this spike. Since asbestos illnesses can take 20-50 years to develop, anyone who inhaled asbestos before the company discontinued their asbestos product line may just now be developing health complications.
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. He also holds a certificate in health writing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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