The Center for Public Integrity has published a 4,000 word report by Jim Morris, telling the shocking story of how Ford responded to “lawsuits filed by former auto mechanics alleging asbestos in brakes had given them mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer virtually always tied to asbestos exposure.” As you can imagine, it wasn’t by removing the asbestos. It was, instead, by spending “$40 million funding journal articles and expert testimony concluding there is no evidence brake mechanics are at increased risk of developing mesothelioma.” This is contrary to the views of just about the entire scientific world, by the way:
Over the past decade 109 physicians, scientists and academics from 17 countries have signed legal briefs affirming that asbestos in brakes can cause mesothelioma. The World Health Organization and other research and regulatory bodies maintain that there is no safe exposure level for asbestos and that all forms of the mineral — including the most common one, chrysotile, found in brakes — can produce mesothelioma.
Did Ford know it was lying? Seems like it.
Worries about brakes as a source of disease go back decades. A 1971 Ford memo shows that while the company didn’t believe brake dust unleashed by mechanics contained significant amounts of asbestos, it already was exploring alternatives to asbestos brake linings. One of them, made of metal and carbon, performed well, the memo says, “but the cost penalty is severe ($1.25/car just for front-end brakes).”
$1.25 per car to save its workers from a horrible, excruciating death (as we've noted before). Instead, Ford spent its money buying a legal defense, which has been “repeated countless times in courtrooms and law offices over the past 15 years, is an attempt at scientific misdirection aimed at extricating Ford from lawsuits.”
Judges have noted the infusion of controversy into a subject that for many years was not controversial in the least. … A veteran asbestos judge in Wayne County, Michigan, wrote in an opinion that he’d never encountered the argument that “the science was not there” on mesothelioma and brakes until he heard a case involving an Exponent witness.
Oh well, I guess this judge hasn’t been to Russia lately. Because Ford’s anti-science “bought and paid for” theory would find great company there. Just watch this incredible new segment from VICE Reports, where,
[C]orrespondent Milène Larsson traveled to the world's largest asbestos mine in the eponymous town of Asbest, Russia, to meet workers whose livelihoods revolve entirely around the dangerous mineral. Surprisingly, the risks associated with asbestos mining didn't seem to worry the inhabitants; in fact, asbestos is the city's pride, celebrated with monuments, songs, and even its own museum.
Larsson then visits Libby, Montana, another mining town almost on the other side of the globe, where the effects of asbestos exposure are undeniable: 400 townspeople have died from asbestos-related diseases, and many more are slowly choking to death. Why is the deadly industry of mining and selling asbestos still alive and well?
Good question. Expert Nick Ashford explains to VICE that the asbestos industry is basically a criminal industry, which has gotten away with murder – and continues to do so. Libby is now a Superfund site and the residents there clearly blame W.R. Grace, which ran the mine, for killing them. But in Russia, sadly, the (likely dying) residents are scared out of their minds to say anything.
And now, there’s a new lethal fiber to worry about, called erionite. The journalists over at Fair Warning report that this "asbestos-like mineral, blamed for staggering rates of a deadly cancer in Turkey" is "also is found in the rocks and soil of 13 Western states.”
The U.S. Geological Survey has identified 95 sites where the mineral, erionite, exists. And a recent hazard assessment at one of the sites, in the Custer National Forest, found that some Forest Service workers are being exposed to erionite particles in airborne dust as they carry out routine maintenance chores.
And here’s where is gets really scary:
Health authorities have noted key physical similarities between some of the unregulated minerals, including erionite, and asbestos. Minerals that, when disturbed, can release microscopic particles that are longer than they are wide, and that don’t easily dissolve in the lung, “should be assumed [to be] capable of causing asbestos-related diseases,” said Christopher P. Weis, a toxicologist and senior advisor at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “It really doesn’t matter what they’re called.”…
[L]ast May, a study in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology suggested a link between naturally occurring fibrous minerals and what it described as an unusual pattern of mesothelioma cases in southern Nevada. …
The study said that while mesothelioma normally strikes older men with workplace exposure to asbestos, in southern Nevada there were more victims than expected among women and people under 55. This, the study said, “suggests that environmental exposure to mineral fibers in southern Nevada may be contributing to some of these mesotheliomas.”
So far, U.S. officials seem relatively unconcerned. Maybe they have been to Russia lately.