Those who were part of “The Greatest Generation” and either served in the U.S. Navy or Merchant Marine or worked in one of the many ship building facilities that turned out sea-going combat and transport vessels have probably been exposed to the asbestos-containing pipe covering that was manufactured for decades by the Ehret Magnesia Manufacturing Company (later known as Baldwin-Ehret-Hill) of Pennsylvania.
While it is true that Ehret Pipe Covering may have saved countless lives at sea from ship-board fires, it may be responsible for at least as many deaths from mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancer. Ehret pipe covering was manufactured from a proprietary formula that contained 85% periclase, or magnesium oxide (better known as “magnesia”), a type of metamorphic rock. The other main ingredient consisted of long, hard amphibole asbestos fibers, which provided a high degree of heat and flame resistance as well as tensile strength to substances.
There were two different brands of pipe covering manufactured and marketed by the Ehret, both of which contained high amounts of asbestos fiber. One was called Thermalite, and the other known as Durocel (not to be confused with the electric battery). Those involved with the initial manufacture of these products as well as those who worked with them in a variety of industries are all at risk for developing the particularly aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma – known to have only one cause, which is exposure to amphibole asbestos.
Amphibole, also known as “blue” or “brown” asbestos, is a type of metamorphic rock like periclase. However, because of the unique geological forces to which these forms of rock are subjected, these particular minerals are pliable enough to be woven into fabric and easily worked. On a microscopic level however, these fibers form millions of tiny, needle-sharp spears that burrow their way through lung tissues from the inside out. During this process, the fibers cause cellular DNA to mutate into cancer cells, thus causing mesothelioma.
Ehret was responsible for more than industrial exposure. Over an eighty-year period between the mid 1890s and 1970s, this company and its successors dumped huge amounts of asbestos waste in what is now Valley Forge State Park , after the park was established, and with the blessings of the State of Pennsylvania . However, public access to the area was not closed off until the Environmental Protection Agency took emergency action in 1997.