Paul Kelley from the law firm Satterley and Kelley talks with John Maher about asbestos exposure at the Plastic Moldings Corporation (PMC) in Cincinnati. He explains which employees were likely to be exposed, and he also touches on exposure risks for people who had relatives working at PMC. Then, he explains what to do if you developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Paul Kelley. Paul is a partner with the Kentucky Personal Injury Law Firm, Satterley and Kelley, which has over 30 years of collective experience in handling cases involving mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Today, we’re talking about mesothelioma at Plastic Moldings Corporation in Cincinnati, Ohio. Welcome, Paul.
Paul Kelley: Good morning, John. How you doing today?
John: Good, thanks. And so Paul, what is Plastic Moldings Corporation? Where are they located?
Paul: So, Plastic Moldings Corporation, it’s gone through various name changes. It was Plastic Moldings Corporation prior to 2000. Now it goes by the Plastic Moldings Company, LLC. And there’s also an arm of the company called PMC Smart Solutions LLC that handles the marketing for PMC. But basically Plastic Moldings Corporation, and I’ll probably call it PMC for the rest of our podcast, it was a company located just across the river in Cincinnati, Ohio — I’m in Kentucky.
It was a molding company. And it made a huge variety of products. It made automotive parts, transmission parts, and a reactor for transmission. It made panel boxes, it made little plastic cup holders and dishes and a huge variety of household appliances. But essentially, it was a molding company, and that’s what they did during the period of time that I’ve had the opportunity to represent clients.
John: Okay. How is Plastic Moldings Corporation related to asbestos and mesothelioma cancer cases?
Paul: Sure. So beginning in the 1950s and early 60s, PMC had a molding operation in the plant. And essentially what they did, there were two different types of molding. There was something called compression molding and then something called injection molding. And the products were made from taking a material called phenolic molding compounds and pouring them into a hopper. And then the hopper would form what was described as a puck, imagine a hockey puck. And then that puck was put into different types of molding machines, and it would mold into whatever final product that the company was making, whether it was a reactor or a panel box or a cup holder. And they made all kinds of different products.
And so that process of forming the puck is how people were exposed to asbestos. The molding compounds from probably 1960, maybe a little bit before 1960 until at least 1980, maybe 1982, 1983, contain asbestos.
These molding compounds were a powdery material, and they contained various types of asbestos. We’ve talked about this on another podcast, there’s information that you can see on our website, that there are six different fiber types of asbestos. The two that are at issue at this plant were something called chrysotile asbestos and something called crocidolite asbestos. And some formulations for various products contain chrysotile, some formulations for various products contain crocidolite. It doesn’t really matter. They’re both carcinogens, both capable of causing cancer. They used millions of pounds of asbestos in these plants over a 20 to 25 year period of time.
So they pour the molding compounds… They come in big barrels, like the 55 gallon barrels, or they come in 50 pound bags of asbestos, and then they just pour them into these giant hoppers. Just imagine a mixer that you bake a cake with. Both these hoppers and molding mixing machines are the same basic concept. They’re open and somebody would stand up on a platform and they would dump those materials in. And so…
John: Imagine if you’re baking a cake and dumping flour into a bowl, all that dust from the flour just kind of comes up in your face. So, I could imagine that this would be similar to that.
Paul: Fantastic analogy. And that’s exactly what happened when they poured the molding compounds in. There was a good way to suppress the dust, but they didn’t do it. And so all that dust would fly into the face of the people that poured these molding compounds in the machines, but it would also expose all the other people that are around. So just the proliferation of dust in that way.
Once the final product made from these asbestos molding compounds were made, they usually had imperfections that had to be shaved off, grinded, sanded, sometimes drilled. It was called flashing. So they had to remove the excess flashing. And so they would have grinding wheels that would, you’d apply the excess flash tear and essentially it would grind it all off. And so that would create a lot of dust exposure for the people that perform that job.
Sometimes they would have to drill into the finished product in order to install some other piece of equipment, and there would be exposure in that way. But that’s really what this plant did. And not everything they made there contained asbestos. There were some formulations that did not, but from 1960 to 1980, 1982, 1983, a substantial amount of the products that they manufactured there contained some asbestos formulation. And pretty much everybody that worked there would’ve been exposed, because that’s what the plant existed for, to make these products. And everybody that worked there was essential to that operation.
John: So what are some of the types of employees at PMC that might have been exposed to asbestos and how?
Paul: Sure, so you had the molders themselves, the people who operated the molding machine. You had the setup people, and the setup people were frequently the people that poured the compounds into the hoppers. You had control operators that would’ve controlled the machines, possibly, in a different area, but they still came into contact and were exposed to the multi compounds.
You had the people who removed the flash or removed that excess plastic area. You had cleaning people, because it produced a terrible mess. All that excess dust that didn’t make it in the hoppers, somebody had to clean that up. They cleaned it up with brooms and compressed air. They had to go in and clean up the flash area, all that plastic pieces that came off during the removal of the flash. So the cleaning people.
But you’d also have maintenance people and electricians. I mean, people had to work on the equipment. These were sophisticated pieces of molding equipment, and they required constant maintenance. They didn’t just have one molding machine, they didn’t have just one machine that made those pots. They had multiple machines. And so, they didn’t shut down operation of the plant in order to fix the machine. Other people are over there pouring materials into hoppers and forming the pills, and other people are working with the compression machines, to make the product. Other people are working, removing the flash. And so the electricians and the maintenance employees, they were all exposed during just the normal plant operation. But certainly the people that I think suffered the greatest exposure are the ones that directly handle the molding compounds. And those typically were the setup people.
John: Right. You’ve said that the final products that were created also contained asbestos. Was the public exposed to asbestos from these products, or was it not as much of an issue because they wouldn’t tend to be grinding and drilling into the product and things like that?
Paul: Well, they could be. So for example, some of the things that were made were panel boxes, electric panel boxes. And so frequently, electricians would work with electric panel boxes and drill into them in order to install circuit breakers and other pieces of equipment. And so they would be exposed from the drilling aspect of it. That certainly is one way.
I mean, we discovered during a case that we worked on that a major auto manufacturer had a part of a transmission made at this plastic molding facility in Cincinnati from crocidolite asbestos. And so the people that would’ve installed that reactor onto the transmission at the automaker plant, I mean, they would’ve been exposed in some way. I mean, if they had to drill into it at all, they’re exposed. If there was any damage to it, they could potentially be exposed. So yeah, absolutely.
One thing that we haven’t talked about is that a lot of people who were exposed from PMC were probably people that didn’t work there. Their family members did. It was a very dusty environment. The people that worked there just wore their own clothes, just jeans and a sweatshirt or work shirt. And all that dust would get onto their clothing, they’d take it home. Their spouse or their children would be exposed in some way, either from washing the clothes or just hugging or coming into some contact with the clothing.
Frequently, people would go home and sit down on the couch or sit down on their favorite chair and before they changed their clothes, and all that dust would get into the furniture, get into the carpeting, get into the house. And I think there were quite a few people who probably suffered an exposure to asbestos, unknowingly, from their family member who worked there, from their clothing. And so that’s another way that the general public could be exposed to asbestos from PMC.
John: Right. Those workers weren’t wearing special clothes and then going through any kind of decontamination process after the end of their shift or anything like that. They were just packing up and going home.
Paul: That’s right. They didn’t have a clue. I mean, they didn’t know that these materials contain asbestos, and they probably would’ve known the impact of it, if they did. And then the company typically did not give work clothing. I do think that there was a situation where they did give some coveralls, but the worker still took them home and either washed them or brought them back to be washed. But it defeated the purpose of giving them the protected clothing by allowing them to take them home.
John: Right. So if you were an employee at Plastic Moldings Corporation and you have lung cancer now, or asbestosis or mesothelioma, what should you do next?
Paul: Well, this is a unique situation. A lot of times when we talk about people who have been exposed, they kind of know it. It was pretty common knowledge by the mid-70s that insulation contained asbestos. That was one of the more common ways the people were exposed. And lots of times, employees didn’t know that at the time that they were exposed, but because of the attention that was brought to it, they found out in 1985 or 1990 that they were exposed to asbestos.
So when they get mesothelioma, they have a general idea, “Darn it, I worked at this manufacturing plant or this powerhouse. I know that I got it.” I have a feeling based on my experience with other people that worked at this plant and plants like it, that they had no idea. They had no idea whatsoever that those molding compounds contained asbestos and ultimately could have caused their disease.
So, it’s very critical to go talk to an attorney immediately. If somebody came to me, I would know exactly where their exposure came from. I would know exactly what companies were at fault for causing and contributing to this disease. And so I think it’s critical that the people come and talk to a lawyer and get an idea as to what their rights are. Because I assure you, nobody knew. Nobody knew at this plant that any of those molding compounds contain asbestos. So my suspicion is that anybody that worked there is diagnosed, they’re probably going to come up with a lot of different scenarios in their head about how they were exposed. And they’re not likely to lean on the molding compounds, because it wasn’t common knowledge.
So talking to a lawyer is important. It’s also important because of the dire circumstances associated with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, John, the statistics aren’t very good for people with this disease.
The average life expectancy from diagnosis is six to 18 months. So it’s important to move quickly. At the same time, they have the most important job, which is to seek and find the best medical course for them. The good news about this cancer today is that the treatments are better, nothing is curative at this point, but we’re seeing people live longer, longer, and longer. Going to the doctors quickly, getting diagnosed as quickly as possible when there’s a symptom that could be associated with this disease is very important. Exploring all of the options that there are for treatment. There are surgeries that can be performed, there are various forms of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation. There are doctors coast to coast that have various expertise depending on what type of mesothelioma there is.
So, I hate to say that people have to go see a lawyer quickly, but they have to go see a lawyer quickly. And if you’re diagnosed with this cancer and you worked at this plant, you have rights. You and your family deserve compensation. But you do have to move quickly in order to make sure that we can do the best job for you that we can. And that requires you to come to us as quickly as possible so that we can hit the ground running and start protecting you and your family.
John: Yeah, like you said, unfortunately, in terms of getting diagnosed quickly or starting to get healthcare done quickly, the fact that these workers really had no idea that they might be exposed to asbestos, really, that might slow down that process. Unlike a worker, say at a power plant who worked with insulation who might know that they were dealing with asbestos, if they start developing symptoms, they might immediately go, “Oh, I have to check and see with my doctor because this could be mesothelioma or something related to the asbestos exposure that I had.” But somebody who was working at PMC might develop a cough or some other symptoms and just kind of put it off because they have no idea that this could possibly be a life-threatening disease.
Paul: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. So we’ve represented a number of insulators over the years, and the insulation unions, the national as well as the local unions have provided a lot of information to their members over the years. The electricians union has, the pipefitters union, and boilermakers union. So a lot of those folks, I mean, they are least conscious in the back of their mind that if they start developing any sort of lung abnormalities, then maybe this is something that we need to go see a pulmonologist check out for asbestos exposure.
These plastic molding workers, they’re just in a different situation, because I don’t think their unions were knowledgeable as to what these molding compounds were made from. They weren’t as educated about any of the hazards associated with these products. And so, that’s absolutely right. And I think that when they start having breathing problems… I mean, there are a thousand and one things other than asbestos that might come to mind.
I mean, today’s day and age, I mean, people think about COVID. The flu is making its comeback this year. RSV is prevalent this year. Emphysema, COPD, I mean, a wide variety of stuff. And so I can see a lot of folks jumping to many different conclusions and just casting off and saying, “Well, I’m going to be fine. I don’t need to go see the doctor right away. This is just a cold or whatever, sinus infection.” And very likely, more than likely, it’s not any sort of asbestos disease. But they’re at a much higher risk than what they possibly could know.
And so one of the reasons why we wanted to do this is to try to educate people who worked at this particular plant or worked at other molding plants, and at least get some information out there that there could have been exposure they had that they’re just not aware of. And they need to be a little bit more cognizant of that if and when they ever develop any lung problems.
John: Right. And then finally, is there a statute of limitations on filing a case related to asbestos exposure at Plastic Moldings Corporation?
Paul: There is. So PMC, as I mentioned before, is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. We don’t need to dig into the weeds too deeply here, but I believe that typically speaking, the Ohio statute of limitations would apply to a case that’s two years from the date of diagnosis. Or in the event that someone passes away, it would be two years from the date of death.
Again, as I’ve mentioned, if somebody came to me and said that they were exposed to this plant or said they work for this plant and was diagnosed with mesothelioma, we would get the case filed very quickly. But if somebody happens to read or listen to this and all of a sudden reach an epiphany that that’s where their disease came from, they were diagnosed nine months ago, they still have time.
John: All right. That’s really great to know and helpful information, Paul. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Paul: Thanks, John.
John: And for more information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, visit the law firm of Satterley and Kelly at satterleylaw.com. Or call (855) 385-9532.