Friday, June 12, 2009

W. R. Grace acquitted in Libby, MT Asbestos Case

New York Times reported on May 9, 2009 the acquittal of W. R. Grace and three of its former executives on all charges that they had knowingly contaminated Libby, Montana a small mining town, with asbestos, and then conspired to cover up the deed.
In some of our classes we have watched the documentary film “Dust to Dust” directed by Michael Brown. The film told the story of the town’s experience with exposure to tremolite asbestos that contaminated the vermiculite mine which many of the town’s people worked at. The film documented the effects on the town, hundreds of miners, their family members, and townsfolk have died, and at least 1,200 have been sickened from exposure to the asbestos-containing ore. These health effects also threaten workers, their families, and residents everywhere the ore was shipped and people living in millions of homes nationwide where it was used as insulation. The W. R. Grace trial mentioned above was the result of the government’s investigation into the Libby, Montana situation.
Based on the New York Times article, it appears the government’s case was very difficult to prove and that several errors by federal prosecutors, during the trial, made it even more difficult. It really is a shame that the people of Libby, Montana will suffer from the effects of asbestos exposure and many of them will die from this exposure for many years to come, while it seems prosecutors are unable or incapable of providing justice for them.

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