Deadliest U.S. Environmental Crime Goes to Trial

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Libby Resident Bob Dedrick at Cemetery for Asbestos Victims (photo: a scene from "Libby, Montana")

Five former executives of W.R. Grace & Co. appeared in court Monday morning in Missoula, Montana, for the opening day of the most important environment-related criminal trial ever filed against a corporation. For 27 years, W.R. Grace operated a vermiculite mine in the small town of Libby. Unfortunately, vermiculite, used in insulation, light weight concrete and potting soil, contains asbestos, which can lodge in the lungs and cause death. It is estimated that 1,200 residents of Libby have died or developed asbestos-related diseases. The victims included many who did not work at the mine. Prosecutors charge that W.R. Grace knew as early as 1976 that mine employees were experiencing lung abnormalities, but company executives chose to keep the studies secret, and they continued to operate the mine until 1990. They also donated asbestos-tainted mine tailings to be used in a high school running track and an ice skating pond at an elementary school.

                                                                             -David Wallechinsky

Criminal Trial Begins in Montana Asbestos Case (by Andrew Schneider, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
W.R. Grace: The Trial (The Missoulian)
Grace Case (University of Montana Scholl of Law & School of Journalism)


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