A recent investigation has uncovered some dangerous facts about a now-shuttered Peterborough, Ontario-based, GE plant. From the 1940s until the mid-1970s, the plant sold off leftover asbestos scrap. For only three cents a pound, GE delivered asbestos scrap to dozens – perhaps hundreds – of workers’ homes by truck.

The issue first surfaced publicly in 2004 through a series of community meetings. In a carefully-worded statement, the company denied knowledge of the practice rather than denying that the asbestos scrap was sold. In fact, an advertisement in the company newspaper from 1956 stated that workers had been using GE asbestos for insulation “for years.” The scrap was offered for sale at three cents a pound with an extra fee for delivery. “Monthly,” the ad continues, “about 1,500 pounds (of asbestos scrap) becomes available from our Wire & Cable section.”

Since 2004, GE has quietly started working to remove the toxic material from residential homes. They have hired environmental health specialists Pinchin Ltd. to oversee abatement. Twenty-four homes have gone through the remediation process so far, but GE has still not issued a public advisory or advertised the fact that they have a remediation program in place.

The recent investigation found that the rate of mesothelioma claims in Peterborough was 40 percent higher than the Ontario average.

With the near-impossibility of uncovering sales records dating back 80 years, GE has not answered questions centering on what efforts have been made to track down employees who might have taken advantage of the asbestos waste sale. They have, however, recently provided a toll-free number for Peterborough residents who believe their homes may contain asbestos-contaminated insulation.