W.R. Grace Silent About Asbestos-Containing Spray Product
New York City, New York -- July 20, 2001 -- W. R. Grace & Company was silent about the asbestos in its fireproofing spray product, Monokote, according to a recent article in the New York Times. From 1970 until the late 1980's, Grace deceptively advertised the spray as "asbestos-free," even though it contained trace amounts of tremolite asbestos, the newspaper reported.
According to documents obtained by the Times, Grace officials met secretly in 1977 and decided not to disclose the asbestos content of Monokote, even as the dangers of tremolite exposure became public. As a result of Grace's subterfuge, workers using Monokote may have stopped wearing respirators designed to block asbestos fibers. The product also posed a hazard during the demolition of buildings.
The Monokote of the 1970's and 1980's contained up to 1% asbestos, as contrasted with the pre-1970 product, which was 12% asbestos. Nevertheless, even low levels of asbestos can be dangerous; Congress has declared that "there is no safe level of exposure." Grace maintains that it informed regulators about the contamination and that the asbestos content of Monokote was within legal limits.
The Times sees Grace's failure to disclose the true content of Monokote as an attempt to capitalize on health and environmental news, making its so-called "asbestos-free" product more competitive at a time when similar products produced by other manufacturers included asbestos. It also views Grace's nondisclosure as an attempt to shield a portion of its business from economic demise. W.R. Grace declared bankruptcy in April 2001, citing the costs of lawsuits involving products other than Monokote.