The Ehret Magnesia Manufacturing Company was founded in the late 1800’s and later renamed Ehret Baldwin Hall. Ehret was a manufacturer of asbestos products, including the long-term production of asbestos insulation blocks and asbestos pipe insulation. These products were sold under the names Thermolite and Durocel and were widespread during the middle of the twentieth century. These products were valued for durability, affordability, and fire resistance. With these desirable qualities, Thermolite and Durocel products were used on a vast scale for many different applications.
Blocks from Ehret Magnesia were used to insulate boilers and furnaces, among other industrial applications. The quantities of asbestos included in these insulation blocks varied, but Ehret’s pipe insulation was made with a highly toxic variety of asbestos known as amphibole. Thermolite products are now known to have been particularly dangerous because they contained up to 85 percent amphibole asbestos with magnesium oxide.
Amphibole asbestos contains fibers that are exceptionally long and sharp. These physical qualities make amphibole highly dangerous because the asbestos can become lodged in the airways more easily, where it can potentially cause various types of tumors including the cancerous mesothelioma. Employees of Ehret Magnesia were particularly at risk for developing mesothelioma, but anyone exposed to the company’s products was at risk as well. The products were used extensively in industrial construction and naval construction.
Ehret insulation products were used on Navy ships in the World War II era. Sailors, officers, and other personnel on board naval ships, as well as shipyard workers, are known to have been exposed to this dangerous variant of asbestos. Anyone involved in the maintenance or creation of equipment like generators, boilers, and furnaces is likely to have been exposed as well.
Ehret Baldwin Hill was acquired in 1968 by the Keene Corporation, which continued to manufacture asbestos products. Keene declared bankruptcy in 1993 under the financial burden of thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits. In 1996 the company emerged from bankruptcy. In the 1990’s the EPA declared a plot of land around Valley Forge National Park a toxic disaster after 80 years of state sanctioned toxic disposal at the site by Ehret Magnesia and those that followed.