The job description of a lagger states that such a worker is responsible for the application of “insulating materials, such as asbestos, felt, fibreglass, polyurethane and cork to pipes, steam generators, process vats or ducting”. Such a worker is expected to determine where and when insulation is necessary, cut, trim and smooth insulating sheets over pipes and other equipment, fit and wrap insulation around HVAC ducts and secure insulation with various fasteners.
Laggers also pack openings in walls and casings with loose insulation materials and may also install prefabricated insulation sheets.
Those who worked as a lagger prior to the 1990’s may have encountered an insulation material branded as Zonolite™. They may also use a product known as Monokote®, a “gypsum-based cementitious spray-applied fire resistive material for structural steel framed buildings”.
The fact is that both of these products, manufactured and marketed by the W.R. Grace Corporation, a multi-billion operation based in Maryland. Grace has been one of the worst corporate offenders when it comes to asbestos issues, going to great lengths over the course of its history to make its behavior and products legal and to evade responsibility for the environmental damage and human injuries caused by these products.
Asbestos Content in Lagging Materials
Back in 1969 when construction of the World Trade Center was underway, W.R. Grace Inc. marketed Monokote as an “asbestos free” insulation product despite asbestos content of no less than 12%. The New York City Department of Air Resources issued a ban on the use of asbestos sprays which went into effect in May of 1970, which was followed up by a federal ban by the newly-formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1973.
The corporate lobbyists employed by W.R. Grace and other asbestos manufacturers went into action, literally buying protective legislation from Congress. This legislation ultimately took the form of what is still known as the “Grace Rule;” any product that is no more than 1% asbestos is legally considered “asbestos free”. The corporate website does not indicate that the product’s current incarnation – Monokote® MK-6® – contains asbestos, the fact is that according to the Grace Rule, it may legally contain up to 1% asbestos by volume, yet be marketed as an asbestos-free product.
Another toxic product of the W.R. Grace Corporation was Zonolite. This was a sheet insulation product that was made with vermiculite – an essentially harmless form of clay that expands when heated. The problem is that vermiculite was contaminated with asbestos fibers from a nearby operation to the extent that genuinely serious health problems, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, developed in those who worked with the material.
Other Corporate Offenders
W.R. Grace and Co. was not the only asbestos manufacturer to engage in corporate lies and deceit. Johns-Manville and Raysbestos-Manhattan, two of the largest asbestos companies until the 1980s, conspired for nearly forty years to keep health information about asbestos a secret from the public. Ironically, this information was in part the result of a scientific study that the management of Raysbestos actually financed.
In 1977, letters discovered in the closet of an office at Raysbestos corporate headquarters revealed the extend of the conspiracy, opening the way for the hundreds of thousands of legal actions that have been taken against the asbestos industry over the past three decades.
Grounds For Legal Action
In order to file a complaint for asbestos-related injuries, such as in the case of asbestos cancer, it is necessary to determine liability. Because so many asbestos manufacturers have gone under or merged with other companies, and because symptoms of asbestos diseases such as malignant mesothelioma usually do not appear until decades after initial exposure, determining liability can be challenging.
This is where lawyers who specialize in asbestos litigation are invaluable allies; thirty years of litigation history have established an enormous body of factual information, precedent and case history that can help in establishing the identity of responsible parties.