Asbestos in New Jersey
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.
Written by Matt Mauney Edited By Walter Pacheco Scientifically Reviewed By Dr. Jerald L. Cook
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How to Cite Asbestos.com’s Article
Mauney, M. (2023, March 3). Asbestos in New Jersey. Asbestos.com. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://www.asbestos.com/states/new-jersey/
Mauney, Matt. "Asbestos in New Jersey." Asbestos.com, 3 Mar 2023, https://www.asbestos.com/states/new-jersey/.
Mauney, Matt. "Asbestos in New Jersey." Asbestos.com. Last modified March 3, 2023. https://www.asbestos.com/states/new-jersey/.
About New Jersey
Cities such as Paterson and Trenton expanded the most, developing many new factories to produce electrical equipment, processed food and chemicals. As the most densely populated state in the nation, New Jersey also ranked eighth nationally for the most deaths from mesothelioma and asbestosis from 2012 to 2013.
In June 2021, a bill to help homeowners remove asbestos from their homes was cleared through the state’s Senate Environment and Energy Committee. The bill would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $25,000 from gross income tax for asbestos and lead removal. The bill passed the Assembly in March 73-0, and is waiting to be voted on by the Senate.
New Jersey’s Occupations and 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 the risk of asbestos exposure 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.
Job Sites with Known Asbestos Exposure:
- A.O. Polymer
- Cosden Chemical Coatings
- 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
- DuPont Chemical
- Johns Manville Products Corporation
- National Gypsum Company
- New York Shipbuilding Corporation
- Skillman Village Power plant
- WR Grace Wayne Interim Storage Site, Passaic County
- Exxon Corporation, Bayway Refinery and Chemical Plant
The Johns Manville Products Corporation
Johns Manville Products Corporation 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:
- Theater curtains
- Liquid paints
- Color-Blende shingles
- 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 mineral 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 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 site.
National Gypsum improperly delivered much of its waste to the Millington asbestos dumps on New Vernon Road and White Bridge Road, 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 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 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 amounts of asbestos into the air as the vermiculite was “popped.” This facility was named a Superfund site by the EPA and cleanup efforts were launched in 2006.
Other W.R. Grace Zonolite facilities in New Jersey included:
- 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 S. Front St., Camden
These seven facilities processed over 2,500 shipments from Libby, totaling more than 338,000 tons of vermiculite.
New Jersey Renovation Projects Requiring Substantial Asbestos Removal
Many buildings in New Jersey still contain asbestos. Renovating these structures could cause construction workers and area residents to inhale asbestos.
Current asbestos removal projects in New Jersey include:
- Capital One Bank in Union City Branch
- Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in Morris County
- Skillman Village, a 250-acre site in Somerset County
Some of these buildings are abandoned, such as a former psychiatric facility, and anyone who explores the empty buildings is at risk of asbestos exposure.
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 improper disposal of wastewater, contamination of local drinking water and 13 air quality violations. During the 1981 cleanup efforts, 61 cubic yards of asbestos material was removed from the four-acre site.