Monday, July 04, 2005

Wanted: More Journalists To Pick Up On Asbestos Stories

I'm "promoting" this from the comments because it's important and I'm not sure if everyone (anyone) actually reads the comments. (Do you? Hello? Anyone out there?).

This is a response by NYCOSH Public Affairs Director Jonathan Bennet to last week's post about the origins of the news articles and legislative hearings about W.R. Grace's contamination of its former plant in Hamilton, New Jersey.
Just to follow up on the issue of a simple tip to a journalist making a huge difference: More journalists need to pick up on the story. W.R. Grace had at least 30 major vermiculite expansion plants located from Massachusetts to Hawaii, just like the one in Hamilton, NJ. There is a major expose waiting to be written about every one of them.

If you click on the ATSDR link in the Confined Space story, you go to the page that lists the 30 locations. That's all the reporters from the Trenton Times started with, and the result has been a small upheaval in NJ government.

If anyone thinks that they shouldn't investigate the site near to them because it's already been done by the Trenton Times, all I can say is this. Are you going to refrain from reporting on a serial killer because it's already been done in Omaha? Are you going to refrain from reporting on a plane crash because it's already been done in Chicago?

I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the people who worked in those plants and the members of their families who were exposed to take-home asbestos have contracted asbestos-related disease at rates much higher than normal (unless the plants were such hell holes that no one would work in one for more than a month or so). Whether people who lived in the vicinity of the plants are also at risk depends on the location of each plant. If it was close to either residential or commercial real estate, you'll probably find excess illness among those who lived or worked near the plant.

And EPA has a list of more than 700 locations that received shipments of Grace vermiculite. Some one needs to figure out which ones received enough of it to put workers and neighbors at risk.

Jonathan Bennett