The Webster Plastics company had its beginning in 1946 in Webster, NY near Rochester, and specialized in injection molding difficult parts. Webster Plastics is now known as Parker Chomerics, a plastic fabrication company in Monroe County, New York.  The Fairport location, housing all operations, had 75,000 square feet, consisting of administration, sales, and engineering divisions.  It operated 24/7 using five shifts to move product, fully staffed at all times, including tool room and maintenance.  Webster Plastics was a division of Acadia Polymers, in turn owned by The Jordan Group LLC, a private investment company in New York City. Sister divisions are Acadia Automotive Sealing and J. M. Clipper, both also well-known for polymer technology. Annual sales were about $25 million.

Webster Plastics and Asbestos Exposure

The plant had 43 injection molding machines, from 22 ton to 1000-ton size. Setup times range from 10-40 minutes depending on process complexity. All machines are fed by a closed loop automated mate- rial handling system with ten miles of piping. Composites with abrasive filler are a specialty, so dies and equipment are both robust and well-maintained.

Webster Plastics and Asbestos Exposure

Over time Webster Plastics became known for expertise in metal-to-plastic conversion, devising unique, better-performing, polymer-based solutions. WP worked with 350 different blends of resin and filler.  In general, plastic molding compounds are formed when phenol and formaldehyde are mixed, and a filler material is added. Manufacturers of plastic molding compounds incorporated asbestos into their plastic molding compounds.

Because asbestos fibers are heat resistant and provide abundant strength, asbestos offered the best protection from heat and breakage, as compared to other filler materials, such as wood flour and cotton. Long fiber chrysotile asbestos was incorporated into plastic molded materials that required a maximum amount of strength.  As recently as the mid-1980s, asbestos was commonly used as a filler material. When these plastic products are manipulated, drilled or sanded, dust and fibers can become airborne and easily inhaled or ingested.

Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Workers who manufactured plastic molding compound, as well as those who converted plastic molding compounds into hardened plastic products, were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers.

Molders were also exposed to asbestos dust and fibers while pressing preformed molded compounds into plastic parts. After the molding compound was pressed and had time to harden and cure, molders removed the newly formed pieces and placed them in a tray or barrel, which was then sent to the finishing department. Before the next batch of plastic compound entered a hydraulic press, the molder used an air hose to blow out any remaining dust and debris from the mold. This was done to protect the integrity of the next product. This process was repeated every time the press was emptied, and it created asbestos dust in the breathing zone of the molders.

A 2005 Illinois Notice of Filing mentions asbestos as being one of the health hazard concerns put before the Illinois Pollution Control Board re: Exemptions from State Permitting Requirements for Plastic Injection Molding Operations.  It has an exhibit from Plastics Society magazine which lists Webster Plastics as one of the nation’s plastic injection molding operations.

Webster Plastics History

Significant events in Webster Plastics’ history:

1946    Founding in Webster, NY.

1973    Began production of composite wiper system pivot housing

1989    Sold to Bunzl (UK)

1990    New president, Vern DeWitt, starts migration of Webster culture

1994    All employees begin to engage in planning a new plant designed for lean

1995    Most Innovative Use of Plastics Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers for the accumulator piston

1996    automatic transmissions (first plastic part to be used in a transmission)

Most Innovative Use of Plastics Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers for the self-adjusting clutch ring

1998    Sold to The Jordan Group; move to new Fairport plant in four days, staying in the Rochester area

1999    Advance the use of teams, beginning the next stage of cultural advance; form tighter cells; work the plan for the new plant

2000    Win the IEE/NIST Outstanding Achievement Award for Successful Lean Manufacturing

2002    Win Industry Week Ten Best Plants Award

2002    Receive Society of Plastics Engineers lifetime achievement award for the wiper pivot housing (350 million made; no known field failures in 30 years).

2005    Acquired by Parker-Hannifin (Parker Chomerics)

At Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, our attorneys bring third party lawsuits for mesothelioma and lung cancer against the companies that wrongfully failed to warn workers against the hazards of asbestos exposure. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease as a result of your exposure working with or around asbestos-containing plastic molding compound, please contact us for a free and confidential case evaluation.