Georgia-Pacific Funded Asbestos Research Raises Objectivity Doubts
Georgia-Pacific Corp, a manufacturer of building materials, is one of the main corporations that faces occupational asbestos exposure claims. In 2005, Georgia Pacific began to receive high profile lawsuits that amounted to almost $1 billion in liability damages as a result of three of their discontinued products. To date, Georgia-Pacific has been named in over 60,000 asbestos exposure related claims. In response to the mounting legal claims against them, Georgia-Pacific commissioned a team of respected research professionals and scientists in order to provide legal evidence that downplayed the significant health risks associated with asbestos exposure. When defending a recent asbestos exposure claim in a New York court, Georgia-Pacific was finally required under court order to release these reports.
Georgia-Pacific Asbestos Use
Ready-Mix is the main product manufactured by Georgia-Pacific that has been blamed for causing asbestos exposure-related illnesses. Ready-Mix was a joint compound that came in both a paste and dry mix. Ready-mix was a concrete paste typically applied directly to walls. Contained within the original Ready-Mix were products that had between 2 and 7 percent white chrysotile asbestos. The ironic thing about Ready-Mix is the fact that the Georgia-Pacific’s product was switched to an asbestos-free composition in 1977, which was a year before the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use and manufacturing of joint compounds containing asbestos.
The Georgia-Pacific Research Reports
From the very beginning, Georgia-Pacific has been extremely mum about their asbestos research program and have refused to release certain documents to plaintiffs. However, it is known that Georgia-Pacific paid $6 million to 18 scientists and researchers who were overseen by the Georgia-Pacific head of toxicology. Researchers took different approaches, some attempted to estimate past worker exposures to sanded compounds, and others attempted to recreate the 1970s asbestos-containing version of Ready-Mix and other joint compounds. In fact, researchers used lab rats to test the recreated materials effects. The ultimate finding of the lab rat tests was that the asbestos materials quickly exited the rat’s lungs, and thus did not present a cancer threat. This finding was rejected by most asbestos experts because the effects of asbestos exposure can take at least 10 years to arise, and thus the rats more than likely could not have had enough time to develop asbestos exposure-related illnesses.
Critics have claimed that Georgia-Pacific’s research endeavors are extremely similar to the measures taken by the tobacco industry in the years before cigarettes were publicly acknowledged as harmful and cancer causing. Such claims have been supported by the fact that Georgia-Pacific has used the attorney-client and work product privileges to prevent compelled discovery of the research reports so that the plaintiffs can view them. Many wonder how the reports could be considered good science if they are not readily accessible for review and critique by the public and research community.
In fact, in a recent appeal of an asbestos litigation case against Georgia-Pacific in New York, it was held that the communications could “have been in furtherance of a fraud,” a statement that Georgia-Pacific vehemently denies. Though over 10 articles funded by Georgia-Pacific have been published in respected scientific journals, many still question the credibility and objectivity of the research. Furthermore, the New York Appeals Court ordered that, because of the potential fraud, Georgia-Pacific must provide the documents to the judge so that an in-camera inspection can be conducted.
To date, Georgia-Pacific has not turned over the report documents for in-camera inspection, and it remains unclear whether they will appeal this judgment. If you feel that you or a loved one is suffering from asbestos exposure-related illnesses, contact an asbestos exposure attorney today.