Porter-Hayden Company (Baltimore)

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Located in Baltimore, the Porter-Hayden Company has produced insulation for many years. First created in 1966 when H.W. Porter and Co. merged with Reid Hayden Inc., the main company had facilities that manufactured and installed insulation products mainly throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. As modern building techniques became the norm, many homeowners and businesses required a good deal of insulation in their buildings. One of the cheapest and most effective materials of the day to use was asbestos. Now known to be a dangerous carcinogen, it was a cheaper alternative to most other options.

Virtually every building created during the time period this business thrived utilized some sort of asbestos installation. Not only is asbestos an effective insulator, it offers a great deal of fire protection as well. Since Porter-Hayden specialized in installation, workers were constantly exposed to the toxin on a daily basis. When being installed, maintained and removed, the material often releases particles into the air that can be easily inhaled. Once they enter the body, they often remain there for the rest of a person’s life.

Porter-Hayden primarily supplied insulation to industrial buildings like steel mills, power plants, and chemical companies rather than private homes, but this exposed not only Porter-Hayden’s workers but also those in other industries to the toxic mineral.  The company was hit with its first of many asbestos-related lawsuits in 1976.  Workers who installed the insulation were particularly prone to developing asbestos-related diseases, since they often breathed in the dust that was created when the insulating products were cut or shaped to fit the particular installation.

By the time the substance was banned in the mid 70s, a great deal of workers had already been exposed to large amounts. Today, people removing or handling any type of asbestos are required by law to wear full body suits and respirators. Before legislation was approved, most workers never used any form of protection. Being unaware of possible complications like mesothelioma and asbestosis, workers simply went about their business. Though many who handled asbestos insulation will have no side effects, there are a small minority that will. The negative consequences of these diseases include decreased quality of life and severely shortened lifespan.

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