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W.R. Grace


became the latest casualty of the asbestos wars, as a sharp increase in claims forced the company to file for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The filing includes 61 of Grace's domestic divisions. None of the company's foreign units are included in the filing. The company, a producer of catalysts and silica products, along with specialty construction chemicals and building materials, received $250 million in debtor-in-possession financing from

Bank of America


Grace, which filed for bankruptcy in Delaware, said the move will enable the company to continue operating its businesses in the usual manner under court protection from its creditors and claimants, while using the Chapter 11 process to develop and implement a plan for addressing the asbestos-related claims.

Grace's asbestos liabilities largely stem from commercially purchased asbestos that was added to some of its fire-protection products. The company stopped adding asbestos to its products in 1973. Grace, which is based in Columbia, Md., is a co-defendant with many other companies in asbestos litigation, with claims filed across the country. The company has received more than 325,000 asbestos personal injury claims, and has paid $1.9 billion to manage and resolve the litigation.

Five other major companies involved in asbestos litigation have voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 since Jan. 1, 2000, bringing the total to 26 companies since 1982.