In 1946, O-Cel-O was founded on Leslie Street in Buffalo, New York, by former DuPont employees Jack Bitzer, Chester Hardt and Gerard Murray. The company manufactured artificial cellulose sponges for household use and was formed in order to take advantage of a shortage of natural sponges due to World War II and a sponge blight in the Caribbean Sea. By 1947, the company’s founders started manufacturing for the household market as the chemical formula for the man-made sponge was quickly patented. O-Cel-O was immediately successful, and in 1952, the company was acquired by General Mills. In 1990, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) acquired O-Cel-O from General Mills. Located on Sawyer Avenue in Tonawanda, New York, the O-Cel-O plant consists of a 275,000 square foot manufacturing facility on 19 acres of land, and it employs over 400 people.

Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos-containing materials were utilized during construction and maintenance procedures at O-Cel-O in Tonawanda, New York. Inhaling dust from the application and removal of asbestos-containing materials placed workers at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Steam heat was utilized at O-Cel-O in order to heat the building and to operate production equipment. In order to maintain a steady internal temperature in the heating system, boilers, pipes and valves were insulated with asbestos-containing materials.  Asbestos-containing pipe covering was utilized as an insulation material that lined the outside of steam pipes throughout the plant. Asbestos block insulation and insulating cement covered boilers. Asbestos gaskets ensured a tight seal between flanges, and packing material prevented leaks from valve stems and pump shafts. During maintenance and repair procedures, workers removed worn pipe covering or block insulation; scraped gaskets from flanges; and pulled packing material from pumps and valves. These procedures emitted clouds of asbestos-containing dust or fibers into the air. Many workers were not aware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos dust and carried on their work without masks or protective gear.

In the process of representing workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information regarding the type and variety of asbestos-containing products to which our clients were exposed. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at O-Cel-O in Tonawanda, New York, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.