Libby’s asbestos clinic fights subpoenas from companies denying asbestos toxicity

29 Oct 2018 by under News
20090617 libbymineCREDITEPA 100x100 Libbys asbestos clinic fights subpoenas from companies denying asbestos toxicity

Credit: EPA

It’s hard for Dr. Brad Black to fathom why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is easing restrictions for asbestos-containing products when so many countries have banned the cancer-causing mineral because of its toxicity to humans. But it’s even more frustrating that companies blamed for knowingly exposing his patients to have hired doctors and radiologists to dispute his findings.

Dr. Black oversees the Center for Asbestos Related Disease (CARD) in Libby, Montana, the site of the largest occurrence of asbestos-related disease in the country. Libby was the location of an asbestos mine owned by W.R. Grace, a company that was removed from legal action after declaring bankruptcy. Remaining defendants in asbestos litigation there include International Paper; Grace’s insurer, Maryland Casualty; Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which transported the asbestos; and the State of Montana, which knew asbestos was carcinogenic and informed the mine owners, but kept mum to residents until the mine closed in 1990.

Asbestos exposure can cause serious health problems including lung cancer and , a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen and chest. It can take up to 50 years for asbestos cancer to develop, which means that the CARD clinic will continue to treat and diagnose residents for the next 20 years.

Asbestos was mined in Libby for decades and used in construction, friction and shipbuilding materials. Its use was banned in more than 60 countries around the world because of the danger it posed. It was never banned in the U.S. Instead, in the 1980s, U.S. officials significantly restricted its use. Recently, the EPA, under the Trump administration, announced that new uses will now be considered.

As unfathomable as that is, it’s just another issue for Dr. Black, who says he is constantly being subpoenaed by companies’ attorneys for documents from the clinic, which is represented by a pro bono lawyer bogged down by the mountain of requests.

“The defense is running scared as juries are holding them responsible for harm and death,” says Linda Reinstein, founder of the advocacy group Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. She, too, is hit with discovery requests from asbestos defendants. “Try as they might through countless subpoenas, I have nothing to share that will negate the fact that they knew asbestos was deadly and allowed use and exposure to harm countless Americans.”

Source: Montana Standard

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