Asbestos and the Blame Game

This week, the EPA announced that it would allow certain asbestos-based products on a "case-by-case" basis.

But the dangers of asbestos to both consumers and workers have long been known and often obfuscated by firms with stakes in marketing asbestos-base dproducts.

Today’s document is from July 1967 and comes from the Johns Manville, a company specializing in roofing products.

This memo justified the use of asbestos and advocated its irreplaceability. It even stated that the document should be used by the companies spokesmen “in testifying before governmental bodies.”

The document begins by glorifying asbestos and its importance to society, arguing that there are "no practical substitutes for asbestos in most of its applications."

Johns Manville tried to highlight that there was no alternative to asbestos in the industrial world, before transitioning to potential risks.

Addressing the toxic side effects of asbestos, Johns Manville claimed that there were only occupational risks and no danger to the general public.

It insinuated that through “normal” use of products utilizing asbestos, there would be no danger, implicitly blaming illness on something else other than Johns Manville-manufactured material itself.

It concluded this report by stating that Johns Manville not only encouraged, but was funding a scientific study on asbestos’ effects on health, and that industrial practices would change based on research results.

But evidence connecting asbestos to asbestosis and other respiratory illnesses existed decades before this memo was published.

This document, by contrast, pushed for the continued use of asbestos products and industry-funded science to countervail an emerging scientific consensus.

You can see more documents from industry-funded groups like the Asbestos Information Association at Toxic Docs by clicking here.