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Last Modified July 6, 2022
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Quick Facts About Asbestos in Pizza Ovens
  • Years Produced:
    1940s – 1980s
  • Places Used:
    Transite baking stones within commercial pizza ovens
  • Toxicity:
    Moderate
  • Asbestos Use Banned:
    No
  • Friable:
    Yes

How Was Asbestos Used in Pizza Ovens?

Chrysotile, or “white” asbestos, was a primary component of transite, the fireproof cement used in the bottoms of old commercial pizza ovens. Transite boards could withstand years of cooking temperatures over 500 F and allowed for consistent heat distribution throughout the baking stones of older pizza ovens. 

Before the 1980s, manufacturers used asbestos in appliances for its ability to withstand high heat and because it could easily be mixed into other substances, such as cement. Asbestos in pizza ovens reduced cracking and delamination of the baking stone, preventing pizza crusts from burning in some areas and remaining undercooked in others.

Hydraulically pressed cement-asbestos transite boards were present in commercial-grade pizza ovens from the 1940s until at least 1985. Johns Manville, a manufacturer of asbestos products, created the original transite board in 1929. Transite later developed into a term that includes broader fireproof construction materials such as insulation, roofing and siding.

Companies That Manufactured Pizza Ovens with Asbestos

A 2011 lawsuit directly named Blodgett, an oven manufacturer, as having once used asbestos in its cooking stones. Asbestos companies, including A.P. Green and Harbison-Walker, produced asbestos-containing clay products and bricks used in many baking ovens.

While some pizza oven manufacturers used asbestos during production, others sourced asbestos-containing cement and bricks from outside companies. This distinction makes it difficult to determine the manufacturers responsible for pizza oven asbestos exposure.  

Fireproof bricks were standard tools for many home chefs, even cited by Julia Child in her original recipe for the perfect baguette. By dropping a heated brick into a pan of water and lining the oven floor with quarry tiles (also potentially contaminated with asbestos), cooks across America could get the perfect combination of heat and steam for dough.

Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure from Pizza Ovens?

Workers who directly handled the production of pizza ovens before the 1980s were most at risk of pizza oven asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. Occupations such as pizza cooks, bakers, oven installers, repair workers and service professionals who spent time near pizza ovens were also at risk of asbestos-related diseases. 

Cracked or broken asbestos baking stones in pizza ovens were a potential source of friable asbestos fibers, which could easily be carried through the air or contaminate pizza. Asbestos in pizza ovens put countless pizzeria workers and restaurant-goers at risk for decades. 

In the early 1990s, commercial pizza oven makers phased asbestos-containing transite out of baking stones. Newer compositions include cement, silicate mixtures, fiberglass and masonry sand. However, those who continue to use older transite baking stones or service old pizza ovens may still be at risk. 

Asbestos Diseases Related to Pizza Oven Asbestos Exposure

Diseases caused by pizza oven asbestos exposure include mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos is nearly invisible and produces no smell or taste, making it easily hidden in smoke or on pizza. Inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers from cracked or broken transite can cause permanent and fatal disease up to 60 years after initial exposure.

Microscopic asbestos fibers can become trapped within the lungs, the lining surrounding the lungs or the abdomen. The body cannot excrete or destroy asbestos. Over many years, the fibers cause irritation and inflammation, leading to cell damage and tumor formation. 

Mesothelioma cancer affects nearly 3,000 people yearly, and patients typically live about 12 months after diagnosis. Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases, such as cough or shortness of breath, often mimic other more common illnesses. If you are at risk of mesothelioma from pizza oven asbestos exposure, a specialist can help you with early diagnosis and treatment.

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Compensation for Asbestos Diseases From Pizza Ovens

In 2011, a 56-year-old worker at a Buffalo-area pizza parlor learned he had developed pleural mesothelioma. After cooking pizzas directly on a transite block, he would then scrape and sweep the Blodgett oven interior, exposing himself to asbestos dust. His lawsuit found that Union Carbide supplied raw asbestos to Johns Manville for transite in the Blodgett oven.

Doctors diagnosed restaurant owner and worker Ottavio Belvedere with malignant pleural mesothelioma in 2006. Less than two years later Belvedere died, and his wife filed a wrongful death claim. The case revealed that the Blodgett ovens Belvedere worked with for over 30 years contained asbestos.  

Mesothelioma patients and their families have a right to compensation for pizza oven asbestos exposure. Experienced mesothelioma lawyers can review your legal options and advise you on legal claims you may qualify for, including personal injury claims, wrongful death lawsuits and trust fund claims.


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