As many of our clients know, the incidence of malignant mesothelioma among the former and retired workers of the Durez facility in North Tonawanda is high. The death toll from this rapidly progressive cancer among the Durez workers now exceeds fifty. In addition to cases of mesothelioma, we also receive a steady stream of reports of death caused by lung cancer and asbestosis resulting from asbestos exposure at Durez.

As reported in a recent article published in “The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health,” Niagara County ranks sixth in the nation for the highest death rate from malignant mesothelioma. It is almost certain that Durez accounts for the largest share of these deaths.

Durez was established in 1926 and soon became a leader in the production of plastic molding compounds. Unfortunately for its employees and for the residents of the area surrounding the plant on Walck Road, Durez employed raw asbestos fiber as a filler to strengthen its molding compounds. The process of adding the raw asbestos to the mixes caused the harmful dust to become airborne and to spread around the plant and onto the neighboring lots.

Significant contamination also occurred at the plant in the Resin and Varnish buildings where large reactors, kettles and stills were insulated with crumbly, chalky and dusty asbestos- containing pipe covering and block.

The period of time between first exposure to asbestos dust and the onset of disease – whether mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis – is typically between 15 and 50 years. Durez continued using asbestos until the end of 1978 and closed its facility in North Tonawanda in 1994.

The risk of contracting mesothelioma is not confined to employees – it also extends to their immediate families. This is because the asbestos fibers are extremely small and light and are capable of being transported home on a worker’s clothing, hair and footwear. Even the relatively slight exposure involved in shaking out work clothes before doing laundry is enough to result in mesothelioma decades later.

Medical literature contains many examples of housewives contracting mesothelioma by washing work clothes. We also know from experience that occasionally, but rarely, children of exposed workers will contract mesothelioma as a result of asbestos contamination originating from the workplace. Also, many college students obtained summer jobs at the plant, especially in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The attorneys at LIPSITZ & PONTERIO have been representing former and retired Durez workers and their families since 1985. We are very knowledgeable about the purchase and use of asbestos in all of its forms, including raw asbestos, solid-state insulation and gaskets.

We vigorously pursue claims of asbestos disease on behalf of our clients, we sue the companies responsible for supplying asbestos to the plant, and we file death claims through the Workers’ Compensation Board for widows and their families.

Many of you have close friends and relatives who have moved away from the Western New York area but who are still at risk of disease due to their past association with Durez Plastics. We urge you to share this newsletter with them. If you would like to add the name of a friend or relative to our newsletter list, please let us know by contacting Mary Marsowicz at 849-0701.