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     W.R. Grace Company Executives face Asbestos contamination indictment
    Opinion: Politics
    On February 8th 2005, the United States Justice Department charged that W.R. Grace & Company and 7 high-ranking employees knew and hid the fact that a Libby, Montana mine exposed the residents to tainted Vermiculite ore. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, this marks the first time that a major company's executives have faced possible jail time for allegedly hiding asbestos hazards from workers.

    The Vermiculite that was produced at the Libby mine was shipped and stored in stockpiles all over the United States. For example, children in Northeast Minneapolis played in the stockpiles of apparently tainted Vermiculite at a W.R. Grace processing plant.

    Bruce Schundler of The Schundler Company has tried to set the record straight about Vermiculite (the mineral used to make asbestos.) The focus of all these articles, however, has continued to be on asbestos contamination at the Libby, Montana mine, not at other mines. Vermiculite itself does not contain asbestos, it was just the Libby, Montana mine which was contaminated because of the presence of a very unstable secondary mineral called diopside. As a result of these articles and news stories, however, many people have become confused and concerned about vermiculite in general.

    According to their web site, The Schundler Company is the oldest and largest producer of perlite and vermiculite on the east coast of the United States, and maintains the largest and most comprehensive site about perlite and vermiculite on the internet. Interestingly enough, Bruce's brother Bret Schundler (Republican Mayor of Jersey City, NJ), is running for governor of New Jersey!

    W.R. Grace & Co. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange as the GRA symbol. Their principal activity is to manufacture and sell specialty chemicals and materials.

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote: For decades, the government determined that material containing less than 1 percent asbestos posed a minimal risk. However, this standard was established when most manufacturers used far greater amounts in their products, and in most cases that asbestos was chrysotile. The asbestos fiber found in the vermiculite and in some talc and taconite iron ore is tremolite. The latest research done on victims from Libby has shown tremolite to be far more toxic and dangerous at levels less than 1 percent. More information can be found about asbestos on the American Lung Association Asbestos Fact sheet

    Asbestos fibers can have serious effects on your health if inhaled. There is no known safe exposure to asbestos. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

    The amount of time between exposure to asbestos and the first signs of disease can be as much as 30 years. It is known that smokers exposed to asbestos have a much greater chance of developing lung cancer than just from smoking alone.

    Asbestos can cause asbestosis, a scarring of the lungs that leads to breathing problems and heart failure. Workers who manufacture or use asbestos products and have high exposures to asbestos are often affected with asbestosis.

    Inhalation of asbestos can also cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen lining. It may be linked to cancer of the stomach, intestines, and rectum, as well.
    Posted on Friday, February 11, 2005 @ 06:04:48 UTC by BB
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