Bosses on trial in US asbestos case

A criminal trial that the United States government calls “the worst case of industrial poisoning of a whole community in American history” is under way, the British newspaper the Observer reported. The corporate giant WR Grace is accused of knowingly allowing a Montana town to breathe asbestos dust that has killed at least 200 people so far.


In court proceedings expected to last four months, five Grace executives are accused of obstructing justice in the case, which stems from a Grace-owned vermiculite mine and processing plant in Libby, Montana. Prosecutors allege that the executives knew the risks from the asbestos-containing mineral, conspired to cover them up and impeded investigators. Lawyers for WR Grace deny all criminal charges.
















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Prosecutors have compiled millions of pages of documents and X-rays that they say prove that WR Grace knew in the 1960s that the asbestos dust was killing its miners, and that it gradually became aware of the harm to their families and the threat to the whole community. The mine was closed in 1990, and Grace subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection.



Of Libby’s population of 2,600 people, at least 200 have died from exposure to asbestos, and more than 1,000 are ill; new cases are being diagnosed weekly. Half of the victims are former miners or members of their immediate families. Others had no direct connection with the company but had used the sports facilities.



Asbestos was present in the air and piles of the mineral ore around the Libby mine and plant. However, it also laced slag – donated by the company in the 1970s – that was used to make running tracks and other sports facilities at four schools in the Rocky Mountain town.