The Asbestos Industry Cover-Up
The asbestos companies that made a fortune off of deadly asbestos products watched as many of their workers slowly died from asbestos-related disease and did nothing.
In many cases, those company executives not only knew of the dangers of asbestos, but they withheld them from unsuspecting workers. Thousands of documents obtained through Baron & Budd litigation reveal the uncaring attitude of these company executives. Sharing the information, or at least providing adequate safety measures, could have saved thousands of lives. Instead, companies chose to boost profits.
In the 1930s studies funded by the asbestos industry itself showed a link between cancer and asbestos. The executives agreed to suppress the information. They devised a plan to convince editors of asbestos trade magazines to eliminate the word “cancer” from their publications. They even ignored suggestions from scientists to caution workers about exposure.
In the years that followed, companies limited the use of asbestos. However, it’s still used today in some products to make roofing materials, brake shoes for vehicles and pipe insulation. Government agencies have attempted to minimize workers’ exposure, but efforts to ban asbestos have seen little success.
The Environmental Protection Agency came close to banning asbestos in the late 1980s, but major corporations flexed their financial muscles and sued the agency, citing economic ruin. Even Quebec and the Canadian government, which for years has allowed large-scale asbestos mining, came to the American asbestos industry’s aid. Ultimately, judges in the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the ban. The court’s decision essentially said that the EPA has no authority to order a ban.
Today, asbestos exposure victims and their advocates lobby politicians to pass laws that ban the toxic mineral. Those who have developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure fight for their lives and fight for their day in court. Meanwhile, company executives still claim no wrongdoing.
Corporate Documents Reveal Hidden Truths
The director of purchasing for asbestos manufacturer Bendix Corp. wrote those callous words in 1966. He knew the dangers that came from working with or near asbestos. But like many executives at that time, he chose to ignore the warnings.
His quote sums up the industry’s conscious disregard for the lives, health and safety of the American worker. Sadly, it’s just a small sampling. Over our more than 40 years of handling mesothelioma lawsuits, Baron & Budd’s mesothelioma attorneys have uncovered thousands of internal memos, scientific studies and other documents that reveal the industry’s coldhearted attitude about asbestos dangers.
Doctors and scientists first began noting the declining health in asbestos workers in the late 19th century. But as early as the 1920s, company executives knew about the link between asbestos and lung disease. In fact, in 1936 the industry funded its own “independent” scientific study that first revealed the connection between asbestos and cancer in animals. Based on these results, a responsible company would have limited workers’ exposure or eliminated it altogether. Instead, company executives suppressed the study’s results. Executives agreed that they would publish the report with redacted references to cancer and tumors. The information that could have saved lives remained hidden.
Industry officials also convinced the trade publication, Asbestos Magazine, to publish nothing about the asbestos dangers. In 1939, the publisher of Asbestos Magazine wrote a letter to one industry executive saying that he would see to it that references to asbestosis would be eliminated or reduced.
“You have requested that for certain obvious reasons we publish nothing, and naturally, your wishes have been respected,” the publisher wrote.
These are just a sampling of the almost endless line of documents revealing the callous attitude of American industry toward asbestos dangers and its conscious disregard for the lives, health and safety of the American worker.
The asbestos tragedy was preventable, had the asbestos industry acted responsibly. The unfortunate legacy of the asbestos industry’s actions is the public health crisis that continues to plague the United States today.
Sampling of Union Carbide Internal Documents
Provided below are confidential internal memos from Dow Chemical subsidiary Union Carbide employees regarding the hazardous effects of asbestos. The internal memos show that Union Carbide was keenly aware in the mid-1960s that short term exposures, even those as short as one day, could put workers at risk for developing fatal cancers thirty or more years later. Union Carbide determined that informing users of the potential of developing cancer by putting warnings on their asbestos that used the word “cancer” would be fatal to their business interests of selling asbestos, and accordingly chose to never inform users with a warning regarding cancer. Decades later Union Carbide was still actively pushing its asbestos. At this point it performed a “risk analysis” regarding its own potential risk of losing money in future lawsuits. Union Carbide estimated that tens of thousands of workers would develop cancer, but that only a small percentage would actually file lawsuits, and so it determined the cost of future liability would not necessitate it from ceasing the sale of asbestos.
Most recently, the uncovering of these documents were instrumental in obtaining a substantial verdict for a mesothelioma patient who was exposed to asbestos by Dow Chemical subsidiary Union Carbide and other companies. Union Carbide was specifically held responsible for punitive damages for knowingly exposing workers to cancer-causing materials. The verdict amount was awarded, in part, because of the information exposed in the documents below.
Disclaimer: Results obtained depend on the facts of each case. Award amounts are not actual cash amounts received by plaintiffs. Deductions are made for liens, attorney fees and expenses.