The Sealright Company, was founded in 1883, by Forrest Weeks as the Oswego Falls pulp and paper company. When Sealright was in operation, it was the largest manufacturer of frozen dairy dessert packaging in North America, which incorporated flexographic printing techniques in the manufacturing process of its packaging materials. Sealright maintained manufacturing facilities in Fulton, New York; Akron, Ohio; Los Angeles, California; Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina; and Kansas City, Missouri. In 1998, the Sealright Company was acquired by Huhtamaki Oyj (a Finnish packaging company), but it still remains a leader in consumer goods packaging and foodservice containers.
At the Sealright Company, flexographic printing was utilized on a variety of its dairy and food service containers. The flexographic printing process uses a steam-heated press to compress a metal (zinc or magnesium) plate into matrix board. Prior to the late 1970s, some matrix boards contained asbestos. Exposure to asbestos-containing materials can cause mesothelioma or lung cancer. Flexographic printers or plate makers came into contact with asbestos-containing matrix boards during the printing and clean-up processes involved in manufacturing flexographic printed materials.
Flexographic printers who worked at Sealright used asbestos-containing matrix boards to convert the master printing plate to a rubber plate that was able to withstand high heat temperatures. Workers inhaled asbestos fibers when they cut matrix boards to size so that the board properly fit into a steam heated press. After a pattern was molded into the matrix board, and had time to cure, sheets of uncured or unvulcanized rubber were placed on the board. When the unvulcanized rubber plate material was casted into the matrix molds, the cured plate was sanded and transported to the printing press where it was mounted on plate cylinders with double sided adhesive. The printing process then took place where flexible film or paper was transferred onto finished products, such as plastic bags, paper bags, paper milk cartons or ice cream containers.
It was typical for asbestos-containing dust to collect in the steam presses from cutting matrix boards to size. Before a new board was pressed, workers used an air hose to blow out excess dust that accumulated in the press. This process was extremely messy, and created asbestos-containing dust clouds. Many workers were not aware of the dangers of exposure to the asbestos dust, and carried on their work without masks or protective gear. Flexographic printers, as well as those who worked in the vicinity, may have been exposed to asbestos dust and are at risk for developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC represents former workers and retirees from the Sealright Company. 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 Sealright or as a flexographic printer and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.