W.R. Grace and Asbestos
Founded in 1854, W.R. Grace (Grace) is responsible for one of the largest asbestos contamination cases in U.S. history. The contamination caused severe harm to its employees and to the residents of the community of the contamination site. The harm forced the company to file for bankruptcy, organize an asbestos trust fund, and face criminal charges. Despite these obstacles, Grace continues to operate today, with its headquarters in Columbia, Maryland.
W.R. Grace and Asbestos History
Grace purchased vermiculite mines and a processing mill in Libby, Montana in 1963, continuing operation there until 1990. The company employed up to 200 people and produced up to 200,000 tons of vermiculite per year. Unfortunately, vermiculite mines are often a source of asbestos as well. This was the case for Grace’s mine and it posed a significant risk to the people who worked in the mines and to those who lived in the area. It is estimated that more than 400 Libby residents have died due to exposure to asbestos fibers.
The Zonolite Mountain mine was closed in 1990 after large amounts of airborne asbestos fibers were detected. This discovery led to numerous asbestos-related lawsuits filed against Grace. These lawsuits included those of residents who lived near the mine, as well as construction workers and homeowners who came into contact with the numerous materials produced by Grace that contained asbestos.
Grace produced specialty chemicals and materials primarily for the construction industry. Some of the products Grace produced included fireproofing materials, plaster, roofing and deck materials, and additives for concrete and cement. The company shipped these products both domestically and internationally.
In 2001, criminal proceedings were filed against Grace by the U.S. government. The company, as well as seven of its executives, was charged with concealing information about the health issues that were caused by exposure to the mine. During the case, records were uncovered that showed the company was aware of harm being caused to employees and residents as early as the 1970s, though nothing was done to limit that danger or warn individuals of the risk.
In addition to the criminal charges in 2001, the company also filed for bankruptcy. In 2009, Grace was ordered to pay the U.S. government in excess of $54 million in order to cover the cleanup costs of its mine. The company established its asbestos trust in 2008 and emerged from bankruptcy in 2014. Today, the mine is considered a Superfund site. Superfund is the name given to an environmental program designed to clean up abandoned areas where hazardous materials exist. The disturbed asbestos caused contamination in residences, schools, businesses, water, and soil.
Help for Asbestos Victims
Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause significant health issues, such as mesothelioma and other cancers. For victims of asbestos exposure, it may be possible to recover damages from those responsible for your exposure. If you would like more information about claims that may be possible as a result of your exposure to asbestos, speak with an experienced attorney today. At the Throneberry Law Firm, we travel to you in order to help you with your claim.