Asbestos in New Jersey

new jersey
8th

ranking in U.S. for mesothelioma & asbestosis deaths

Since its founding, New Jersey has been a largely industrial state, and the state's dependence on factory production increased in the Industrial Revolution. Emerging industries such as textiles, electric power plants and iron mining overtook agricultural jobs. Many New Jersey residents found employment in these occupations, where asbestos exposure was a major threat. Cities such as Paterson and Trenton expanded the most, developing many new factories to produce electric equipment, processed food and chemicals. As the most densely populated state in the nation, New Jersey also ranks eighth nationally for the most deaths from mesothelioma and asbestosis from 2012 to 2013.

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Mesothelioma and Asbestosis Deaths, 1999-2013

  • 1,576 mesothelioma deaths
  • 402 asbestosis deaths
  • 1,978 total deaths

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Occupational and Environmental Areas at Risk

Many of New Jersey’s prominent industries, including chemical development, textile manufacturing, shipping and railroad development exposed workers to large quantities of toxic asbestos. Sixteen of the state’s thriving manufacturing plants employed over 102,700 individuals, and the eight shipyards in New Jersey employed 376,200 workers. These people often encountered asbestos in the walls or machinery in their workplace. Employees of oil, power and chemical plants also faced asbestos risks at their workplaces. One study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggested that as many as 486,400 individuals had been substantially exposed to asbestos in New Jersey workplaces since World War II began.

Jobsites with Known Asbestos Exposure:

  • A.O. Polymer
  • Cosden Chemical Coatings
  • Exxon Corporation, Bayway Refinery and Chemical Plant
  • Naval Weapons Station Earle
  • Rutgers University, Newark
  • Texaco, Inc., Bayonne Terminal
  • United States Testing Company, Inc., Hoboken
  • Zonolite Company/W.R. Grace facility in Hamilton
  • Celotex
  • DuPont Chemical
  • Johns Manville Products Corporation
  • National Gypsum Company
  • New York Shipbuilding Corporation
  • Skillman Village Power plant
  • Unarco
  • WR Grace Wayne Interim Storage Site, Passaic County

The Johns-Manville Products Corporation

W.R. grace asbestos exposure

Johns-Manville Products Corporation, the world’s largest producer of asbestos, opened its first insulation plant in central New Jersey in the early 1900s.

The company patented its first product in 1868, and by 1923 it manufactured more than 200 different products, including:

  • Transite
  • Theater curtains
  • Liquid paints
  • Color-Blende shingles
  • Flexboard
  • Marinite to insulate Navy vessels

The company, which provided millions of dollars to industrial development, became one of the most notorious names in asbestos litigation. Johns-Manville officials knew about the toxicity of asbestos as early as the 1930s, but they continued to use the inexpensive insulator in the company's products for the next 50 years. Under the pressure of numerous legal cases, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1982. Six years later, the company completely ended its asbestos lines and developed a settlement trust to deal with the future health claims of former injured employees. Redevelopment of the former Johns-Manville facility – including proper asbestos abatement – was a key platform of Angelo Corradino, a mayoral candidate for Manville, New Jersey, in 2011. Corradino was elected mayor of Manville in 2014.

National Gypsum Company

In 1925, the National Gypsum Company developed an asbestos-containing wallboard. The company purchased an Abestone asbestos cement plant in Millington, New Jersey in 1954, where it manufactured asbestos cement that contained up to 15 percent asbestos. In 1980, the company went bankrupt dealing with the numerous lawsuits filed by former employees who developed illnesses from exposure at the worksite.

National Gypsum improperly delivered much of its waste to the Millington asbestos dump's New Vernon Road and White Bridge Road sites, leading to site contamination that was addressed in the early 1990s. The company entered into an administrative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (PEA) in 1985 to ensure ongoing site studies and cleanup processes.

New Jersey Processing Facilities for W.R. Grace Vermiculite

The W.R. Grace vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, was the world's leading producer of vermiculite, exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of asbestos-contaminated product to refineries across the nation. Seven refineries in New Jersey received vermiculite from the now-notorious Libby mine, exposing workers to the fibers as they "puffed" the mineral into its usable form.

W.R. Grace's Zonolite facility at 15 Industrial Drive in Hamilton Township began processing Libby's vermiculite in 1948. Approximately 100,000 tons of asbestos-laden vermiculite was refined at the facility, which possessed the state's only heat expansion equipment. The process of "exfoliating" vermiculite through heat exposure was one of the most dangerous steps of refining, releasing high percentages of asbestos into the air as the vermiculite was "popped." This facility was named a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency and cleanup efforts were launched in 2006.

Other W.R. Grace Zonolite facilities in New Jersey included:

Vermiculite
  • 35 Industrial Way in Trenton
  • 336 Whitehead Road, Trenton (Penn-Car Shops)
  • 1 River Road, Edgewater
  • 595 Rive Road, Edgewater
  • 308 Gilligan Street, Newark
  • 1101 South Front Street, Camden

These seven facilities processed over 2,500 shipments from Libby, totaling more than 338,000 tons of vermiculite.

A.O. Polymer

A.O. Polymer produced compounds such as plastics, resins and special polymers between the 1960s and 1993. In the 1970s, the facility was cited for numerous health violations, including 13 air quality violations, improper disposal of waste water and contamination of local drinking water. During the 1981 cleanup efforts, 61 cubic yards of asbestos material were removed from the four acre site.

New Jersey Renovation Projects Requiring Substantial Asbestos Removal

While the EPA has developed regulations to prevent present and future asbestos threats, many buildings in New Jersey still contain asbestos. Renovating these structures could cause construction workers and area residents to inhale asbestos. Some of these buildings, such as a former psychiatric facility, are abandoned, and anyone who explores the empty buildings also may risk asbestos exposure.

Current asbestos removal projects in New Jersey include:

  • Capital One Bank – Union City Branch
  • Greystone Psychiatric Hospital – Morris County
  • Skillman Village, a 250-acre site in Somerset County

Asbestos Litigation in New Jersey

Former employees of Johns-Manville, National Gypsum and other leading asbestos companies in New Jersey faced frequent workplace exposures to asbestos. They often brought microscopic fibers home, unknowingly exposing their family members. For decades, families affected by asbestos have filed lawsuits to receive compensation for the resulting asbestos-related illnesses and wrongful deaths.

Johns-Manville

In July 2014, a New Brunswick judge awarded $90.5 million to 11 families from Manville — a New Jersey town Johns-Manville built and named. Several of the victims who developed asbestos-related cancer never worked at the Manville plant but had family members who did.

The awards ranged from $4 million for Virginia Stanley, whose father was also a victim named in the lawsuit, to $15 million for John Ketchum, whose wife died in 2009 at age 49. The families received compensation from Anova Holding, AG, and Becon, AG, two Swiss companies that supplied asbestos to Johns-Manville from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Decades earlier, in 1982, Johns-Manville and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company paid $15.5 million to 683 former employees of the Raybestos-Manhattan Company of Passaic. The majority of the workers suffered from asbestosis, a potentially fatal disease in which inhaled asbestos scars lung tissue and makes breathing difficult.

National Gypsum and Others

In a 2006 wrongful death and survival action lawsuit, Anthony Olivo sought compensation for his wife’s death from mesothelioma and a noncancerous illness he developed after decades of occupational exposure to asbestos. Olivo, a former steamfitter and welder, worked at various industrial and commercial jobsites in New Jersey from 1947 to 1984. Olivo’s wife developed mesothelioma because she washed his asbestos-contaminated work clothes after every workday.

The lawsuit named 32 companies that manufactured, supplied or exposed Olivo to asbestos products, including National Gypsum Company, W.R. Grace & Co., Exxon Mobil Corporation, Texaco and Owens-Illinois. All defendants, with the exception of Exxon Mobil, settled with Olivo out of court for undisclosed amounts.

Additional Resources

  1. (2005). Analysis of cancer incidence near the zonolite/w.r. grace site hamilton township, mercer county, new jersey. Atlanta, Ga: Us Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
  2. 32m spent so far to replace former Montgomery psychiatric facility with park. (2006, October 11). New Jersey Real-Time News
  3. Borough of Manville – Welcome to the Borough of Manville, NJ. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.manvillenj.org/page.asp?prmName=boroughhistory
  4. Brown, Matthew. (2011). Libby, Montana: New Danger Found in Asbestos-Plagued Town.
  5. The Huffington Post, July 5, 2011: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/05/libby-montana-asbestos-wood-piles_n_890222.html
  6. Environmental Protection Agency. (2011). Region 2 Superfund: W.R. Grace/Zonolite Site,Hamilton Township, NJ. http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/epa-region-2
  7. Environmental Protection Agency. (1983). EPA Region 2 A.O. Polymer
  8. Environmental Protection Agency. (1983). EPA Region 20 Asbestos Dump
  9. Environmental Protection Agency. (2011). Region 2 Superfund: W.R. Grace/Zonolite Site, Hamilton Township, NJ. http://www.ewg.org/
  10. Fabrikant, M. (2011, November 02). Hollister construction services announces renovation of capital one bank branch in union city, n.j. The Paramus Post, Johns-Manville – JM 150th Commemorative Publication.
  11. LaDou, Joseph. (2004). The Asbestos Cancer Epidemic. Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 112, Number 3. March. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241855/?tool=pubmed
  12. National Cancer Institute. (2011). Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos
  13. National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety/CDC. (2003). Fact Sheet: NIOSH Recommendations for Limiting Potential Exposures of Workers to Asbestos Associated with Vermiculite from Libby, Montana. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2003-141/
  14. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. (2007). Health Consultation: Celotex Corporation, Edgewater, Bergen County, N.J. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hac/pha/CelotexCorporation/CelotexCorpHC011007.pdf
  15. NorthJersey.com – Christie: Greystone will be Cleaned up or Demolished. (2011 Nov 3). Retrieved from: http://blog.northjersey.com/thesource/1299/christie-greystone-will-be-cleaned-up-or-demolished/
  16. Stanbury, Martha and Rosenman, Kenneth. (1987). A Methodology for Identifying Workers Exposed to Asbestos since 1940. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 77, No. 7, July. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1647202/pdf/amjph00258-0080.pdf
  17. Zangara, M. E., & , (2011, October 11). Campaign for mayor is in full swing. The Manville News. Retrieved from: http://www.centraljersey.com/articles/2011/10/12/the_manville_news/news/doc4e9610858f6cc164530682.txt
  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2011). Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2008 [Data file]. Retrieved from CDC WONDER Online Database: http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
  19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2015, January). Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html
  20. Epstein, S. (2014, July 2). $90.5 Million Awarded to 11 Manville Families Who Lost Members to Asbestos-related Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2014/07/905_million_awarded_to_11_manville_families_who_lost_members_to_asbestos-related_cancer.html
  21. Freedman, S. (1982, September 1). The Town Manville Built Has Mixed Feelings; The Talk of Manville. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1982/09/01/nyregion/the-town-manville-built-has-mixed-feelings-the-talk-of-manville.html
  22. Carney, L. (1982, January 3). Environews. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1982/01/03/nyregion/environews.html
  23. Supreme Court of New Jersey. (2006, April 24). Olivo v. Owens Illinois, Inc. Retrieve4d from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/nj-supreme-court/1466530.html

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