U.S. Asbestos Documentary 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On November 3 & 4, 2005 a two-part television documentary entitled Killer in Town was broadcast on Nightline, a program shown on the ABC channel. The first broadcast focused on the effects of vermiculite mining on the workers, residents and environment of Libby, Montana. The part played in exposing them to tremolite-contaminated ore by W. R. Grace, the company which bought the Zonolite vermiculite mine in 1963, is examined:

“Grace clearly knew (of the hazards) by the mid-60s because they had done pulmonary function tests… And they knew that a large number of workers were coming down with this asbestos-related disease. This is in the 60s…

Grace documents are fairly explicit about the conversations going on between the Grace legal department and the marketing department. The legal department said, you have an obligation to warn the consumer. The marketing department would say, it'll gut out our sales. We'll lose our place in the market. W.R. Grace made money out of Libby vermiculite into the 1990s. And then, as the human toll from the ore became apparent, the company declared bankruptcy in 2001, leaving behind a mountain of problems.”

The second broadcast followed the trail of devastation caused by exposure to Zonolite vermiculite from Libby to 236 cities and towns in 42 U.S. states; it is estimated that 15 to 35 million homes in the U.S. could contain tremolite-contaminated Grace insulation products. What has the federal government done? Not much.

“It's a very sensitive issue… the White House is extremely interested in having this (asbestos) legislation passed. EPA and other agencies in the government that deal with asbestos have basically been told to keep it quiet. They don't want any opposition to this. Remember, President Bush in his State of the Union Address, one of the things he said he wanted was asbestos tort reform. The pressure from this comes from the highest levels. The White House doesn't want any of the medical professionals in the government agencies to make noise about the potential danger to the public.”


November 8, 2005



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