Five Decades of Deceit
Click here for a summary of what the asbestos companies
knew and when they knew it.
The following are a sampling of excerpts from internal company correspondence
from various asbestos insulation manufacturers arranged by decade.
“I think the less said about asbestos, the better off we
are, but at the same time, we do not lose track of the fact that there
has been a number of articles about asbestos dust control and asbestosis
in the British trade magazines.” The magazine “Asbestos”
is in the business to publish articles affecting the trade and they
have been very decent about not re-printing the English articles. .
Letter dated October 1, 1935 from Sumner Simpson, President of Johns Manville
Corp. to attorney Vandiver Brown. Indicates conspiracy to withhold important
health information about asbestos from the public.
“You may recall that we have written you on several occasions
concerning the publishing of information, or discussion of, asbestosis
and the work which has been, and is being done, to eliminate or at least
Always you have requested that for certain obvious reasons we publish
nothing, and, naturally your wishes have been respected. . . .”
Letter from publisher of “Asbestos” magazine to Sumner Simpson
indicative of editorial involvement in the conspiracy of silence.
“Strategy for 1942
Should it not be to take the offensive?
The following plan is suggested:
1. Gather as a weapon-in-reserve an impressive file of photostats
of medical literature on asbestosis. Available are two bibliographies
covering medical literature to 1938, citing references to scores of
publications in which the lung and skin hazards of asbestos are discussed.
This file would cover five or six hundred pages, which can be microphotographed
in the library of the Surgeon General in Washington or in some other
medical library. . . .
(d) If reaction is unfavorable, use the asbestosis weapon-in-reserve
to let them stew. We may be sure that word of the proposal will reach
competition and may give us a lever with which to go direct to the locals
under the union’s professed law of local autonomy. This procedure
may provide an opportunity to promote dissension in the ranks that conceivably
could bring about over-throw of the present Union leadership. . . .
Owens Corning Fiberglas Corporation intracompany correspondence January
7, 1942. Indicates OCF awareness in 1942 of the voluminous medical literature
about asbestos health hazards. This was written at a time when OCF was
manufacturing fiberglass insulation and trying to compete with asbestos
by showing the unions that asbestos was dangerous. After failing with
this strategy OCF went into the asbestos manufacturing business and adopted
the strategy of other manufacturers, namely the conspiracy of silence
and the ongoing denial of knowledge of the hazards of asbestos.
“The fact that you are starting with a mixture of quartz and asbestos
would certainly suggest that you have all the ingredients for a first
class hazard. . . .”
Letter from Leroy Gardner, M.D. dated March 12, 1943 to Mr. U. E. Bowes,
director of research for Owens Illinois Glass Company illustrating Owens
Illinois’ awareness of a hazard in that year.
“The first item for discussion was the “Memorandum
on Proposed Epidemiological Study of Lung Cancer in Asbestos Workers”
for the Asbestos Textile Institute.
This proposal had been under discussion for approximately one year and
the cost of it could run from about $17,000.00 to possibly $30,000.00
After a lengthy discussion, the proposal was put to a vote and six of
the eight members of the Committee voted against the continuance of
the consideration of the proposal. It, therefore, was rejected for the
following reasons. . . .
There is a feeling among certain members that such an investigation
would stir up a hornet’s nest and put the whole industry under
suspicion. . . .”
Minutes of the Asbestos Textile Institute Air Hygiene and Manufacturing
Committee, March 7, 1957. In attendance were: D. R. Holmes-Asten-Hill
Mfg. Co.; R. B. Smith-Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc.; B. W. Luttenberger-Raybestos-Manhattan
Inc.; J. W. Weber-American Asbestos Textile Corp.; A. E. May-Keasbey &
Hattison Co.; W. C. Atkinson-Johns-Manville Corp.; and J. L. Mitchell-southern
“We are pleased to enclose the following items relative to
your recent request about asbestos.
Toxic Properties - form “Sax”
Article on Asbestos - from a book by “Ladov”
A quote on “Asbestosis” - from a book by “Patty”
A discussion about “Asbestosis” - from a book by “Drinker
Hygienic Guide Series on Asbestos
Threshold Limit Values for 1961 - as established by the American
Conference on Governmental Industrial Hygienists
A chart from “Patty” on “Asbestos Warts”
We asked the Library to trace down four articles on the subject.
If and when they arrive, I’ll forward them. . . .”
Letter dated May 16, 1962 from Mr. C. Rudrick, Manager of Safety and
Plant Protection to Mr. Karl Baumler, Vice President Pittsburgh - Corning
Corporation indicating the company’s familiarity with the medical
literature about the hazards of asbestos.
“I thought it would be advisable to write to you now, because
of the importance of the papers presented, the information developed
and the implications pertaining to asbestos which warrant serious consideration.
. . . .
1. There is now agreement on an International level, from the facts
and evidence presented, that there is an irrefutable association between
asbestos and cancer. At present this association has been established
for cancer of the lung and of the pleura and of the peritoneum (in the
form of mesothelioma). . . .”
Letter dated October 26, 1964 from Thomas F. Mancusor, M.D., Research
Professor at University of Pittsburgh - Department of Occupation Health
to Mr. John T. Cantlon, Consulting Actuary for Philip Carey Company indicating
that company’s awareness of asbestos hazards.
“Just to be sure you have a copy, an article that appeared
in Chemical Week magazine is inclosed.
So that you’ll know that Asbestos is not the only contaminating,
a second article from O.P. & D Reporter assess a share of the blame
My answer to the problem is: if you have enjoyed a good life while
working with asbestos products why not die from it. There’s got
to be some cause.”
Letter dated September 12, 1966 from E.A. Martin Director of Purchases
to Mr. Noel Hendry, Canadian Johns Manville Co. Ltd., exhibiting a frame
of mind which combines humor with callous cruelty.
“Went to Winnipeg and met Whittaker. He can’t understand
why you fellows have been so quiet about asbestos? I made no comment,
and he proceeded to tell me what an unethical competitor Bob Chaney
is. I stated you hate to lose, but agree completely on your scruples.
Stay unscrupulous, unethical, mean and selling Mono-Kote.
Seriously, the fiber boys are really worried about this situation
and as soon as we have the new Mono-Kote, lay it on them in your area.”
Letter dated June 1, 1970 from Thomas F. Egan to Bob Chaney, showing
the evil nature of the corporate culture.
“Reference is made to your memo of September 15 regarding
the warning label that should appear on Kaylo.
Are you saying that we have to do this now? I naturally would like to
delay this requirement as long as possible.”
(Owens Corning) Fiberglas intra-company correspondence to Dr. John Konzen
from J.P. Kern (both Fiberglas employees) regarding asbestos labeling,
showing the desire to delay warnings to users of the products.
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