M.H. Detrick Co. (Mokena)

The M.H. Detrick Company was founded in the 1920's in Mokena, Illinois, to make linings for furnaces, ovens and boiler pipes. Their refractory linings were durable, able to stand high temperatures and seldom needed to be replaced or repaired. Although they specialize in linings, their tiles were also used in roofs and walls. This company has been known in the industry for 90 years as a maker of top-quality products. However, the ability of Detrick tiles to withstand temperatures of 3,000 or more degrees depends primarily on the large amount of asbestos found in them. Asbestos is a mineral remarkable for its fire-resistant properties and excellent durability. So far, nothing has been found to match it. Unfortunately, this irreplaceable product has a dark side. As the 20th century wore on, people who worked with asbestos started developing unusual cancers that were not found in people employed in other industries. It wasn't just employees of the Detrick Company who developed these diseases, but also other workers like welders, roofers and boilermakers who worked with their products. Of course, the M.H. Detrick Company wasn't alone in the ever-growing use of asbestos. All across the globe, makers of insulation, tiles and other construction products increasingly turned to asbestos because the material made their items better. Slowly, people started to notice that manufacturers and large-scale users of asbestos were developing asbestosis, mesothelioma and other lung diseases. Although asbestosis is also a deadly cancer, mesothelioma has proven to be the more frightening (and well-known) disease because of its aggressive nature. Once mesothelioma has advanced to the stage where it can be diagnosed, it is often too late for effective treatment. Like so many other companies in the latter half of the 20th century, M.H. Detrick was found to be negligent in not protecting its workers from or warning them of the dangers of asbestos, long after the management knew about it. By 1998, the company had to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to prevent a complete collapse. Today the company is still in business and works with malleable iron and ductile iron in the manufacture of nonclay refractories.