Kaiser Aluminum (Foothill Ranch)

Kaiser Aluminum is a specialized aluminum products developer and manufacturer headquartered in Foothill Ranch, California, with offices and fabricating sites located throughout the US and Canada. The company was founded in 1946 by the industrialist Henry Kaiser, who leased several aluminum manufacturing facilities in the state of Washington. These companies had been operated by the U.S. government until the end of World War II, and eventually Mr. Kaiser bought out his lease and formed his own aluminum manufacturer.

In the early years of Kaiser Aluminum, the company focused on mining bauxite and refining it into aluminum. Many different specialty aluminum products were produced and sold to various companies around the world, and Kaiser employed many thousands of workers in the fields of metallurgy, smelting, operations of rolling mills, and developmental science.

In 1977, the U.S. government issued a number of warnings concerning the use of asbestos in manufacturing. A comprehensive list of health issues were made public, and companies that used asbestos in their facilities or manufactured products were often forced to reorganize their production practices. Kaiser was among the many fabrication companies that used asbestos as an insulator and general fire retardant in high heat operating areas.

Today Kaiser Aluminum no longer refines bauxite, but instead focuses on the development of specialty high-grade aluminum products, contracting with a number of buyers and producing approximately 500 million pounds of aluminum each year, especially for clients in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Kaiser Aluminum filed for general bankruptcy in 2002, mostly as a result of the nearly 100,000 claims filed against it from persons who had previously worked in and around asbestos during their employment. Kaiser had used asbestos not only in the products they manufactured, but also in the buildings in which workers were employed.

Asbestos fibers are an extremely good insulating material, and therefore were often used in the coverings on pipes, electrical panels, as well as walls and ceilings near operations where high heat is being produced. These fibers are known to be a cause of certain benign and malignant cancerous disorders, especially asbestosis and mesothelioma. When it was determined by medical professionals that there was a direct connection between inhalation of asbestos and the subsequent symptoms of mesothelioma, manufacturers and their workplaces were often completely overwhelmed by renovation costs and waste removal operations. Kaiser was forced to remove all traces of asbestos from its facilities and no longer uses the material in any of its manufactured products.

The company established the Kaiser Asbestos Trust Fund as a part of its bankruptcy and reorganization process, and uses this funding program to pay off all legal obligations and personal injury claims stemming from the use of asbestos prior to 1977.