Operating out of Birmingham, Alabama, the Shook and Fletcher Insulation Company operated many production facilities throughout the Southeastern United States. Beyond these manufacturing sites, the business operated a variety of distribution centers as well. Founded in 1901 the early years consisted of dealing with iron, coke, brick and a variety of other manufacturing materials. It wasn’t until 1939 that the company entered the insulation industry. The businesses entry coincided with a national increase in demand for insulation. As the country became wealthier, better housing was required to meet the needs of the American public.
Though not used for many decades, early insulation products were often made of asbestos. The material could be mined from the earth just about anywhere in the US, and was an extremely cheap option in comparison with other alternatives. Unlike many of the other alternatives available, asbestos is extremely good at acting as a fire retardant. The properties of the material made it seem ideal to manufacturers and clients of the time. The business would produce asbestos containing insulation from inception, until it was banned outright three decades later.
Since employees and most employers had no idea there was any potential health hazards, most handled the material without any sort of production. During the insulation production process, dust was created in large amounts. Today, it is known that inhaling these dust particles is the direct cause of issues like mesothelioma and asbestosis. During the time period the business was producing asbestos insulation, workers had no idea that should have been wearing protective gear that would help prevent inhalation.
Once these employees inhaled the toxin, it would remain in the protective membranes that surround the organs in their abdomens and chests. Most people who have been exposed will have no complications, though a small group of them will. Mesothelioma is a dangerous and aggressive form of cancer that can be particularly hard to treat. Without early detection, treatment becomes even more difficult. Though less life threatening, asbestosis can seriously reduce quality of life. Each has many serious complications that need to be addressed by proper diagnosis.
As awareness of asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis increase, it is still believed that many people go undiagnosed. Many people who worked in the insulation industries across the country aren’t aware that their symptoms could be the result of prior handling of the material.