In 1926, the first mining and manufacturing plant of National Gypsum was established in Clarence, New York. The discovery of an almost pure gypsum deposit in Clarence Center prompted National Gypsum to begin gypsum mining and manufacturing operations for its wallboard and plaster products. A Buffalo, New York, inventor by the name of Joseph F. Haggerty developed a new process for the manufacture of wallboard, which created a lighter and more flexible product. The carefully patented new gypsum wallboard product later became known as Gold Bond, after its certificate of guarantee, which was included with every shipment. National Gypsum also manufactured gypsum lath and plaster, ceiling tiles and heating applications. The Clarence, New York, mine ceased its operations in the 1970s, and the manufacturing facility was successful until it shut its doors in 1982.
Asbestos-containing materials and products were not absent from National Gypsum’s product line or its manufacturing facility. Prior to federal regulations placed on asbestos in the late 1970s, National Gypsum incorporated raw asbestos into its wallboard products. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer. The production of asbestos-containing wallboard incorporated raw asbestos and crushed gypsum (calcium sulfate). Water was added to the minerals and a slurry formed, which was sandwiched between two pieces of paper. The wallboard was then dried in a kiln and shipped. Asbestos was incorporated into the wallboard product to create a sturdy fireproof material. Workers inhaled asbestos fibers when they mixed the slurry and cut the plasterboard to size.
In the 1970s, National Gypsum’s Clarence, New York, plant began to manufacture Panel Electric, a product used for heat applications. This new product was used to heat walls, and it was used in general heating applications. Asbestos-containing plasterboard was grooved, and electrical wires were inserted and covered with plaster. Panel Electric was intended for set-up behind a wall for its use as a heat source. During Panel Electric’s manufacturing process, workers were exposed to asbestos when they cut and scored the asbestos-containing plasterboard.
Asbestos was also used in the maintenance and upkeep of National Gypsum’s manufacturing facility. From the calcine building to the kiln facility, to the rock dryer building and powerhouse, asbestos was incorporated into gaskets, packing material for pumps and in the insulation that covered boilers and pipes. Hot water and steam pipes were insulated with asbestos-containing pipe insulation. Boilers were insulted with asbestos block and cement. Pumps and valves were sealed with asbestos gaskets and rope packing. Of course, any individual exposure to any one of these products varied based upon a worker’s years of service and their proximity to the asbestos-containing materials.
Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC, represents former workers and retirees from National Gypsum. In the process of representing these workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the types of asbestos-containing materials to which our clients were exposed. If you or a loved one were once employed at National Gypsum and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.