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Asbestos Trial Begins In Montana
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Opening statements began on the case of U.S. vs. W.R. Grace and Co. and five executives of the company.  W.R. Grace is charged with willingly exposing the residents of Libby, Montana to asbestos, a fibrous mineral linked to cancer.

Many of the town’s residents were mining vermiculite for W.R. Grace from Zonolite Mountain, near Libby, so it could be processed for products used in plumbing insulation.  The mining continued from 1920 to 1990.  The vermiculite from the Libby mine was contaminated with naturally occurring asbestos.

  
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“The defendants in this case knew the dangers of asbestos they released into the Libby, Montana air, yet they concealed the dangers, putting local residents at risk while enriching themselves,” prosecutors said in their trial brief.  Prosecutors contend that the asbestos killed 225 residents of Libby, and made about 2,000 sick.

Lawyers for W.R. Grace deny there was any plan to intentionally release asbestos, and also argue that many of the releases occurred years before an applicable law was passed in 1990.

“The government has illogically charged that the defendants conspired in 1976 to violate a statute that would not exist for another 14 years,” Grace said in its trial brief.

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