Disease likely to increase thanks to mass poisoning by W.R. Grace

March 24, 2008

Workers exposed to low levels of vermiculite from Libby, Montana more than two decades ago are at an increased risk for lung disease, according to research from the University of Cincinnati (UC).

An article in Science News Daily reported today that:

Workers with low-level exposures to Libby vermiculite ore may not have obvious health effects right away, but the past exposure is something of which their physicians should be aware. Once inhaled, these fibers are very persistent and stay in the lung for a long time. They lodge in the lung tissue and the tissue that lines the chest wall and cause inflammation, which can lead to chronic lung problems and diseases. Records show that until the Montana mine was closed in 1990, it provided up to 80 percent of the world’s vermiculite supply–which was widely used in both commercial and residential applications, including home insulation, packing materials, construction materials and gardening products. Vermiculite ore is now mined from other sources that reportedly do not contain similar asbestos-like mineral fibers.

The chest X-ray changes associated with the low cumulative fiber exposure are a public health concern. The Libby vermiculite ore was widely distributed across the United States for residential and commercial use, which means it could impact not only the workers who processed it but also consumers who used it for home insulation.

The full story is posted here.


Asbestos poisoner evades liability through Chapter 11 filing

March 24, 2008

Federal-Mogul Corp. insurers may have to pay more than $500 million for asbestos damages under the Chapter 11 plan that got the company out of bankruptcy last year, a bankruptcy judge has ruled. Judge Judith Fitzgerald of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh, ruled against more than two dozen insurance companies, who were fighting to avoid paying claims for damages linked to Federal-Mogul’s asbestos products.

Read the full story here.

Like many other mass asbestos poisoners, Federal-Mogul chose to declare bankruptcy so that it could insulate itself from asbestos liability. Federal-Mogul of course is far from bankrupt, and after emerging from the bankruptcy proceedings will be able to continue making money hand over fist without fear of ever having to compensate the tens of thousands of people who were poisoned by its deliberate, knowing use of lethal asbestos.

Although on its face the proceedings help asbestos victims because the ruling against insurers requires them to pay into a settlement fund, in reality the damages suffered by Federal-Mogul’s victims run into the billions. The $500 million trust fund will soon be depleted, or its payouts will be so minuscule as to make efforts to collect hardly worth the effort.

W.R. Grace asbestos creditors seek to defeat company’s self-serving reorganization plan

November 7, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — W.R. Grace & Co.’s asbestos creditors on Monday filed their own version of a Chapter 11 reorganization plan, heating up the contest over how to end the specialty-chemical company’s stay in bankruptcy.

Grace and people claiming injury from its asbestos products have been at odds for years over how much the company must set aside to cover its liabilities before it can end the Chapter 11 proceedings it began in 2001.

The Chapter 11 plan proposed by asbestos creditors calls on Grace to set aside cash, equity or other assets sufficient to deal with $4 billion worth of liabilities linked to the toxic substance.

Grace’s own Chapter 11 plan is premised on a much lower estimate of the damages it owes for asbestos products, $712 million, according to one of Grace’s experts. The company’s version of a Chapter 11 outcome would also leave shareholders with a stake in the reorganized Grace.

That is not the case with the asbestos creditor version of a Chapter 11 restructuring for Grace, filed Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

Shareholders would see their stock canceled under the asbestos creditors’ plan, unless Grace gains sufficient value to cover its asbestos liabilities and other debts and still has value to spare.

Shareholders lose all in most corporate Chapter 11 cases, but there have been cases, including asbestos-driven bankruptcies, where shareholders have held on to their interests. In recent years, USG Corp. and Owens Corning Inc. ended long stays in bankruptcy and long battles with creditors without stripping shareholders of everything.

Monday’s rival Chapter 11 plan proposal comes in the wake of a July ruling in which a judge stripped Grace of exclusive rights to control its bankruptcy proceedings. Judge Judith Fitzgerald gave lawyers representing people claiming injury from Grace asbestos products the right to file their own Chapter 11 proposal in hopes the threat of a rival plan could push Grace to negotiate a settlement.

Grace, based in Columbia, Md., filed for Chapter 11 protection to shield itself from more than 135,000 asbestos-related lawsuits. The company blames resistance from asbestos creditors for stalling the six-year-old case.

Post-bankruptcy asbestos defendant doing well

July 31, 2007

Corning, Inc., heir to one of the major corporate defendants in asbestos litigation, emerged from bankruptcy having left its obligations and debts to thousands of poisoned workers in a trust fund. Many observers believe that the trust fund is woefully inadequate. After emerging from bankruptcy, minus its asbestos debts, Corning, like other asbestos companies that sought refuge in faux bankruptcy, continues to be profitable.

From Rich Smith, July 31, 2007.

–Corning earned $0.30 per share in Q2. It would have earned $0.34, but for a charge to earnings. The value of the stock the company had contributed to an asbestos litigation settlement fund rose more quickly than expected. That worked out to a 6% decline in earnings per share.

–Sales grew 12.4%, and the firm earned a record 46.5% gross margin on those sales.

–Operating margin dropped precipitously — but illusorily, since the asbestos litigation charge mentioned above combined with a nearly equal-and-opposite benefit in last year’s Q2 to magnify the difference in operating margin. Likewise with the net margin, with dropped to 34.5% from last year’s 40.8%.

Additional information about asbestos medical and legal options are available from the Law Office of Roger G. Worthington, P.C., www.mesothel.com.