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Report: Grace Knew of Asbestos Link

February 14, 2000

BOSTON (AP) _ W.R. Grace Co. and at least three government agencies knew the firm’s attic insulation contained asbestos while it was on the market, according to a published report today.

While the government was slow in alerting the public to the possible dangers of asbestos in the product, Grace lobbied hard to keep its product free from warning labels and scrutiny, The Boston Globe reported.

Grace’s Cambridge-based Construction Products Division produced Zonolite Attic Insulation until it was discontinued in 1984, and consistently argued the product was safe.

``We didn’t think the product was a health hazard,″ said William Corcoran, Grace’s vice president for public and regulatory affairs.

Asbestos has been linked to several diseases, including lung cancer.

In a 1981 study, the federal Environmental Protection Agency cautioned that people using Grace’s attic fill ``may be particularly vulnerable and unprotected due to ignorance of the potential hazard.″

Zonolite is a loose-fill insulation that was poured between attic rafters, under floor boards and behind walls.

Earlier this month, the EPA warned homeowners to delay using Zonolite in remodeling projects until more is known about the product.

Corcoran said that while Zonolite was being produced, the company cooperated with government agencies. The only asbestos standards in the 1970s were for workers. Zonolite insulation was designed for consumers, who would have limited exposure to it, compared with workers, Corcoran said.

But according to internal Grace memos, the company:

_ Discussed options for keeping government regulators at bay.

_ Tracked mounting lung cancer deaths of workers at the Grace mine and mill where the main ingredient used in the insulation came from.

_ Drafted a news release in 1977, citing ``health hazards″ as their reason for discontinuing the attic insulation. However, the release was never issued and the product was sold for seven more years.

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