Kentile floors commenced manufacture of floor tiles in Brooklyn, New York in 1898. The tiles the company produced for many
years included a material known as asbestos.
Asbestos is a
material that had already been in use for a couple of hundred years. It gained prominence during the
American Industrial Revolution for its pliable property and its ability to withstand very high temperatures. It was also
non–flammable in nature which made it a popular additive in products exposed to high temperature environments.
Asbestos comes in a number of varieties, but the basic properties are the same. All types contain small fibers that adhere
together in a crystalline manner. Asbestos fibers easily come apart, can float freely and tend to cling to almost and type of
surface. People in the vicinity can inhale these dangerous asbestos fibers. The fibers further have a tendency to cling to
clothing and other
personal effects because of which they can be transported unwittingly to other locations where they can again be set free to
be breathed by others.
The hazardous nature of ingested asbestos was unknown till around the mid 1970’s when it was found, even in small
quantities, to seriously affect the human respiratory system. A further study revealed that the condition gave rise to mortal
illnesses like Asbestosis, mesothelioma and even lung cancer. This resulted
in substantial loss of life, even with people who
used linoleum asbestos flooring of which Kentile floors were one of the manufacturers. Like other manufacturers, Kentile too
sold its vinyl asbestos in the form of tile flooring.
In 1981 there were 6 major U.S. manufacturers of vinyl asbestos tiles who took immediate steps to stop the use of
asbestos. Kentile floors however continued and only stopped using asbestos in 1986. Kentile floors regretted that decision
because several cases of fatal mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos were traced to their tiles. This resulted in a
number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits which the company was unable to sustain. In 1992 Kentile Floors filed
for bankruptcy. Kentile’s executives made several attempts to restart the company with other flooring products but their
efforts were futile. Kentile Floors was then closed permanently.