Owens Corning Corporation was founded in 1935, as the result of a merger between two glass product companies, the Corning Glassworks and Owen Illinois. Ever since that time, the company has specialized in fiberglass, either in its hardened form as a building material, or in its looser “fibrous” form used as a ceiling and wall insulator. The great need for cheap, lightweight insulation made Owens Corning a huge amount of profits over the decades and the firm began to specialize in other products such as sealants, finishing cements, acoustical paint, and roofing felt.
Headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, Owens Corning employs a large number of workers in several locations, and has recently begun new environmentally-friendly work divisions that are actively involved with local governments in recycling and reusing various parts and components manufactured by the company. Their major focus has been energy saving tips and ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making structures more energy efficient. Owens Corning is a noted recycler of their own waste materials, and uses a tremendous amount of recycled sand and glass to manufacture its fiberglass products.
In the 1970’s the U.S. government released important information about the dangers of asbestos and Owens Corning was one of the large number of companies found to be using this material in great quantity. Asbestos was used by the company in its fireproof products, especially ceiling materials and wall panels. Asbestos fibers were present in some of the company’s cement and finishing chemicals, also. Receiving the most attention was Owens Corning’s famous Kaylo insulating cement, which was shown to contain a significant amount of asbestos fibers. The product was sold in powdered form between the 1930s and the 1970s, and any workers who came into contact with the cement could easily inhale asbestos. The Kaylo brand pipe insulation was one of the most widely used in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and contained a high level of asbestos fibers.
When the public was made aware of the dangers posed by asbestos fibers, there was an immediate rise in the number of valid medical claims made against companies. This included Owens Corning which had used this family of toxic substances for decades. In 2000, Owens Corning filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was advised to develop a trust program for the purpose of settling medical claims by former employees. This trust became a major part of the company’s reconstruction and helped to eliminate the possibility of Owens Corning becoming completely insolvent. In 2006 the company emerged from bankruptcy and is still settling claims filed by former workers while at the same time continuing to grow and diversify.