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W.R. Grace tested vermiculite on hamsters, chemist testifies

Wed., March 18, 2009, midnight

MISSOULA – A former chemist for W.R. Grace & Co. told jurors Tuesday that he oversaw a 1976 study in which hamsters were injected with asbestos-laced vermiculite from Libby.

Over time, many of the hamsters were diagnosed with mesothelioma, and eventually suffocated due to “pleural thickening,” or scarring of the lung lining, according to Heyman C. Duecker, who worked for Grace for more than two decades.

Duecker testified in the government’s criminal case against Grace. At issue is whether Columbia, Md.-based Grace and five one-time company officials knew they were endangering the community of Libby by mining asbestos-laced ore, and whether they did so in violation of federal law.

The testing was part of a corporate directive to study the hazards of asbestos in order to better understand its potential health risks to miners in Libby.



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