An investigative study conducted by VICE News and the Center for Public Integrity has uncovered that automobile giant Ford Motor Company paid out close to $40 million in an attempt to change the science of asbestos after losing lawsuits to employees and contractors over asbestos in brakes.
Vice News reports that in 2001, board-certified toxicologist and industrial hygienist and former VP of Exponent, Dr. Dennis Paustenbach, received a call from Darrell Grams, a then attorney for Ford, who explained that he’d been hired after the automobile company began losing lawsuits worth substantial amounts, filed by former workers who developed asbestos-related diseases. Grams asked the toxicologist if he’d like to make a business deal and help research asbestos in order to find other causes that may have caused the workers to develop toxic illnesses.
Paustenbach agreed and set out researching asbestos, a topic that up until that point, he was unfamiliar with.
“I really started to get serious about studying asbestos after I met Mr. Grams, that’s for sure. Before that, the topic wasn’t interesting to me.”
As the business relationship continued, Exponent made around $18.2 million for its research into asbestos. Cardno ChemRisk, a company that Paustenbach created in 1985, gained another $21 million through its business dealings with Ford, equaling a total of close to $40 million spent by Ford to fund testimony by experts that asbestos in the company’s brakes and other products didn’t cause workers to develop fatal diseases.
According to John Dement, an asbestos researcher and professor at Duke University’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Ford used the findings they funded numerous times over the years in countless trials, yet despite spending nearly $40 million, there isn’t any way to change the science of asbestos and what it does to people who come into contact with it.
“They’ve published a lot, but they’ve really produced no new science. Fifteen years ago, I thought the issue of asbestos risk assessment was pretty much defined. All they’ve accomplished is to try to generate doubt where, really, little doubt existed.”
Some of the research played a part in innocent victims of asbestos losing their lawsuits. For example, a Wayne County, Michigan judge wrote that he’d never seen an argument in which “the science was not there” associated with brakes, until he recently heard a witness of Exponent testify about it. The argument over the science of asbestos is beginning to stir controversy as more and more companies are beginning to use it as a defense to their own cases.
Yet, over the past decade, hundreds of doctors, scientists, and researchers from 17 countries who have spent countless hours studying asbestos have confirmed many times over that asbestos from brakes can indeed cause toxic illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. Many established organizations, such as the American Cancer Society (ACS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization have stated that there are no safe levels of asbestos, no matter how small.
Ford Motor Company Violates the Law
In 2013, Ford was was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for eight asbestos and respiratory protection standards after the organization found that Ford’s Lakeshore Road plant in Buffalo allowed its employees to work around asbestos in extremely unsafe situations without proper safety protection. Some of the infractions included allowing an employee to work around an asbestos-filled steam line without any safety protection and failing to put up the proper warning signs around areas that contain asbestos.
According to OSHA’s Buffalo area director, Art Dube,
“Workers deserve to perform their duties in a safe environment knowing they are protected from unsafe exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that proper and effective safeguards are in place and in use at all times.”
Yet, Ford continues to defend its stance that asbestos as seen in a 2014 annual report in which the company said,
“We are prepared to defend these cases, and believe that the scientific evidence confirms our long-standing position that there is no increased risk of asbestos-related disease as a result of exposure to the type of asbestos formerly used in the brakes on our vehicles.”
Ford is “Muddying the Waters”
Regardless of how much Ford spends in attempt to change the science of asbestos in an attempt to win mesothelioma lawsuits, the majority of physicians and researchers who study the mineral in-depth state that Ford is simply muddying the waters by attempting to get experts to formulate overly-broad conclusions, which is having a negative effect on the years of scientific research that’s went into the study of the mineral and its effects on humans. Dement summed it up best by stating,
“In the asbestos area the whole literature has been so warped by publications just supporting litigation. It has a real negative impact on pushing the science forward.”
Assistance and Resources for Asbestos Victims
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. If you have questions or need additional assistance, contact us toll-free at 800-694-4856.