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asbestos

1898 The Chief Inspector of Factories of the United Kingdom reports to Parliament in his Annual Report about the "evil effects of asbestos dust". He reported the "sharp, glass like nature of the particles" when allowed to remain in the air in any quantity, "have been found to be injurious.

1918 An American insurance company produced a study showing premature deaths in the asbestos industry in America.

Members of the nonoccupationally exposed population have tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of asbestos fibers in each gram of dry lung tissue, which translates into millions of fibers and tens of thousands of asbestos fibers in the lungs of every person. Asbestos causes asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer the incidence of which is increased by tobacco smoking.

1999 15,000 tons of asbestos contaminated soil remain at a Libby, Montana site which processed vermiculite ore beginning in 1948. A health study of residents showed residents have a much higher incidence of pleural thickening and lung scarring from asbestos exposure than the general public. Eighteen percent of the nearly 5600 adults examined had pleural thickening or lung scarring. The national average for people not exposed to asbestos is between 0.2% to 2.3%. Of the 328 former mine employees tested, 159, or 48% showed lung scarring. Many of the village women who were diagnosed with these asbestos-related ailments reportedly came into contact with asbestos fibers while washing their husband's work clothes.


2001 RAND Institute for Civil Justice published its asbestos litigation study labeled "Asbestos Litigation in the US: A New Look at an Old Issue."

- Over 500,000 claimants have filed suit to date;

- At least 5 firms have had 300,000 - 500,000 claims each;

- The number of mesothelioma claims began to increase in the mid-1990s;

- US Insurers have to date paid $21.6 billion for asbestos personal injury claims;

- 27 million people in the US were exposed to asbestos occupationally from 1940 - 1979;

2005 Economic consulting firm, Bates White, completes a review of the "Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act (FAIR) and found that the planned $140 billion trust fund which would be set up to pay asbestos personal injury claims would be insolvent within three years. The firm estimates the range of claim payouts under the plan would generate between $300 billion and $695 billion of claims.

The US Department of Justice and the EPA announced that a federal grand jury in the District of Montana has indicted W.R. Grace and seven current and former Grace executives for knowingly endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealing information about the health affects of its asbestos mining operations. According to the indictment, W.R. Grace and its executives, as far back as the 1970's, attempted to hide the fact that toxic asbestos was present in vermiculite products. The government claims the company's own medical studies of its miners created a paper trail that will prove the charges of wire fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and violations of the Clean Air Act.

"Our major problem is death from respiratory cancer."- note by W.R. Grace executive Henry A. Eschenbach in 1982

2009 The defendants are acquitted in the Libby, Montana case.


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