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"It's shocking to me that hundreds of thousands of people are dying of asbestos-related disease across this country but most people don't know a thing about it," says Chris Weis, an asbestos coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency. Medical evidence dating back to 1899 has shown that asbestos is a slow but steady killer, even though world governments, including our own, and the popular media have long bought into the idea that a little asbestos won't hurt you. In fact, a single microscopic spear-shaped asbestos fiber lodged in a victim's lung can cause myriad fatal reactions. Physicians estimate that exposure to asbestos will eventually kill millions of Americans. They will die of asbestosis, mesothelioma, tremolite poisoning, or cancer of the esophagus, colon, or stomach.
In 1989, the EPA finally did ban the manufacture, importation, processing, and distribution of commercial asbestos-- but the ban didn't hold. Asbestos is big business, rivaling tobacco in its profitability. By 1991, powerful corporate lobbyists had succeeded in having the ban overturned. Today, asbestos remains an ingredient in more than three thousand products on sale here in the United States and many more that are exported to developing nations around the globe.
In Fatal Deception, Michael Bowker details the gritty struggle for justice in Libby, Montana, site of the most lethal environmental disaster in U.S. history. Bowker also tracks the cover-up that has led to the exposure of more than 100 million Americans to the potentially lethal fibers that still exist in countless homes and in more than a million public buildings and offices. Among these are the World Trade Center, which contained hundreds of thousands of pounds of asbestos. Bowker makes the case that the owners of the vermiculite mine in Libby, and the asbestos industry in general, took terrible advantage of employees, who rarely were told of their peril.
At least fifty American companies have already filed for bankruptcy due to asbestos lawsuits, and jury awards by some estimates may reach a staggering $200 billion. By establishing the serious threat of asbestos once and for all, Fatal Deception is an urgent appeal to cut our collective losses and ban asbestos now.
About the Author
Michael Bowker is an investigative journalist who specializes in telling the human stories behind today's health, science, and environmental issues. He has written four books and hundreds of articles for a variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Outside magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives in Placerville, California.