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The asbestos cover-up: a brief history (Part II)

In our previous post, we wrote about the refusal of the asbestos industry to acknowledge the health hazards posed by airborne asbestos fibers. In this post, we will review the ongoing efforts of the asbestos industry to deny these hazards posed by asbestos-containing products and to create a phony science intended to limit the legal liability of companies that mine or use asbestos.

In the 1970s, aggressive attorneys began to sue companies that used asbestos in their products but failed to warn anyone about its known health hazards. In response, the industry responded by starting a public relations campaign to deflect attention away from these hazards. Ford Motor Company was facing a number of products liability lawsuits over asbestos used in its brake linings, and it hired an industry consultant to conduct studies and write articles intended to "prove" that asbestos did not pose any kind of hazard to persons who worked with the material. At the same time, medical researchers were showing that mesothelioma, an especially lethal form of lung cancer, was caused almost exclusively be asbestos product exposure.

The asbestos industry nevertheless continued its attempts to hide the dangers of asbestos. After one case involving asbestos-containing talc had been settled, the defendant company directed its attorneys and employees to gather all documents regarding talc and destroy them. In what amounts to a last ditch defense, asbestos companies are attempting to persuade state legislatures and the United States Congress to pass laws that limit the amount that plaintiffs can recover even if their lawsuits are successful. Several states have passed the so-called FACT Act (Further Asbestos Claims Transparency Act) which requires the numerous trusts established to handle asbestos liability claims to make public disclosures regarding successful claimants. Opponents of such laws say that they will deprive the asbestos trusts of funds that are needed to pay claims.

Lawyers for people attempting to recover damages for death or illness caused by asbestos exposure have responded to the industry cover-up by compiling large libraries of information on the companies that produce asbestos and companies that use (or have used) asbestos in their products. Anyone who may have been exposed to asbestos fibers may wish to obtain a physical examination and, if a positive diagnosis is received, consult with such a firm regarding the likelihood of recovering damages for lost income, medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Source: Huffington Post, "Asbestos Industry Covered Up Danger for Decades, and Evades Responsibility Today," Alex Formuzis, June 6, 2016

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