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Asbestos: Cover up of a century

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

By Kenneth A. Cook, Co-founder and President, Environmental Working Group

Thousands of innocent people die while governments do nothing to prevent it. In Darfur it's called genocide. In the case of asbestos-related deaths in the United States, it's just a statistic.

10,000 Americans lose their lives every year as a result of exposure to asbestos. Our government could take action and ban the mineral, but it has not.

A number of other developed countries, including all of Europe, prohibit manufacture and use of asbestos. In the U.S., however, it continues to be imported and used in a number of products that many of us encounter every day.

Industry has known all about the deadly affects of asbestos for decades but covered it up. Manufacturers and users did everything possible to conceal just how deadly it is, particularly for those exposed on the job.

A few years back, EWG compiled industry internal memos and court documents highlighting just how callous and duplicitous the cover-up of asbestos has been. The results of our investigation, including all the documents, are on EWG's chemical index.

A 1966 memo from an executive of the Bendix Corporation (now part of Honeywell) read:

"...if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products, why not die from it."

The legacy of asbestos exposure is one of the great public health tragedies of the last 100 years, one that has taken an incalculable toll on American families. Congress must hold those responsible to account and ban asbestos once and for all.

[Thanks to Flickr CC & ktheory for the pic]

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