Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Secret Research Conducted into Asbestos Diseases

July 19, 2014

Atlanta, GA Secret research into the risk of developing an asbestos disease such as asbestosis might sound like the stuff of a movie, but according to a report from The Center for Public Integrity, one company did just that. The company, facing massive liability lawsuits linked to asbestos-related diseases, reportedly hired consultants to carry out studies and publish their results in the hope of proving asbestos was not a carcinogen.

According to The Center for Public Integrity’s report (originally published 10/21/13), Georgia-Pacific faced almost $1 billion in liability due to asbestos litigation. In response, the company reportedly devised a plan to prove asbestos was not making people sick: hire consultants to carry out studies, have those studies published and have the company’s legal team provide input on those studies before they are published.

Eighteen scientists were reportedly paid a total of around $6 million for their work, which was also held “in strictest confidence” so it could not be used against the company in litigation. The Center reports, however, that a New York appeals court found that communications that were claimed as privileged “could have been in furtherance of fraud.” Georgia-Pacific has denied that allegation.

Although Georgia-Pacific refused to turn over documents that it argued were protected under attorney-client privilege, the court ordered the company to hand over the documents.

In all, 13 articles were published in scientific journals, but not before a lawyer for Georgia-Pacific reportedly offered input on the articles.

Among other concerns noted in the Center’s report were a lack of proper disclosure in some published studies - including reporting that research was sponsored by a grant when in fact the researcher was under contract - and that other researchers took issue with the theories and findings presented in the studies.

Georgia-Pacific has denied any wrongdoing in the situation.

Asbestos has been linked in studies to an increased risk of serious, fatal lung diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. There is currently no known safe level of asbestos exposure, and symptoms of asbestos-related diseases can take decades to appear. Many people are exposed to asbestos through their work, mining it or working with products that contain it. Others are exposed to it because their loved ones work with it and carry fibers on their clothing.

Lawsuits have been filed against companies accused of exposing people to asbestos without providing proper warnings or protections.