Air That Kills Paperback – Jan 4 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
As part of a year-long investigation into the impact of the General Mining Act, which let corporations buy land cheaply from the government, Schneider, senior national correspondent for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, met with Gayla Benefield, a resident and activist in Libby, Mont. Benefield's extensive knowledge of the area and the number of people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses impressed Schneider. He began his own digging, talking to lawyers, residents, environmental experts and staffers at the EPA, and even had tests conducted. This book chronicles his inquiry into an enormous coverup by Grace Corporation, which ran the Zonolite factory. Schneider and McCumber, managing editor at the newspaper, have written a compelling and frightening story about the victims-the people who worked in the factory and other local residents who weren't employees-suffering from life-threatening ailments. The authors focus on the individuals rather than the legal wrangling, court cases or scientific research. For example, in describing the matter-of-fact way employees handled the asbestos dust, they compellingly write: "Each floor was worse than the last. Les' battle with the never-ending blizzard of dust was truly mythical in proportion, like Hercules cleaning the Augean stables.... When he got on the bus to ride back to town that night, he was covered in dust, just like everybody else. His hair was coated, his ears and his nose were plugged up. His throat felt like sandpaper. The dust in his mouth and nose felt like thick brown syrup...." With Benefield-who's reminiscent of Erin Brockovich-at the center of the story, the authors have written a first-rate book about a contemporary American tragedy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* News media take a lot of criticism these days, often deservedly, but sometimes the fourth estate comes to our aid when all other institutions fail. Here, Schneider and McCumber build on the story they broke in 1999 for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Vermiculite miners in remote Libby, Montana, were dying. Worse, their spouses and children were dying, too. Vermiculite is used in construction materials, insulation, gardening, and elsewhere. The vermiculite found in Libby is contaminated with tremolite, a particularly lethal form of asbestos, which dusted the workers and the town and which companies Zonolite and W. R. Grace said was harmless. This is a tale of chilling employer cynicism, of government collusion, and, fortunately, of an alert reporter, a committed community activist, and an EPA worker who fought his own agency to do what was right. Still, Libby's environmental catastrophe is worse than Love Canal's--and because asbestos still hasn't been banned, citizens weren't and won't be the only ones to suffer. In this remarkable book, the authors construct a rich, compelling narrative that includes both hard science and touching stories. Schneider and McCumber have clearly chosen a side, but to take the other is to value money over human life. An essential entry in the annals of corporate amorality. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I must have read a review or heard one of the authors in an interview...but somehow this book made it onto my "Must Read" list. When I received the book, I questioned why I had gotten it, having forgotten what motivated my interest in the first place. But I started reading and have found this book to be a treasure.
The story is one of deception, corruption and greed on the part of Big Business, in this case the mining business. The owners and executives misled their workers, investors and the government agencies that regulated them into turning a blind eye to the dangers of asbestos in their products.
While the deception of the miners in Libby was unconscionable, the book goes on to document the Bush White House withholding information that the air in and around the World Trade Center was not healthy! Can you imagine, after a tragedy like the WTC disaster, that your own government, that you rallied round to give support, would turn on you and withhold information that the air that you breathe is full of cancer causing dust? Which tragedy is worse?
The book is truly a must-read.
Lastly, I want to point out the courage of the reporters, editors, doctors and the outstanding EPA field workers that fought to get this story out.Read more ›
But it's a whole different ballpark, when it's their kids who are being impacted by lung disease...because they played in a ballpark, where Grace & Company dumped their waste/tailings. Or when the men know their wives will die of the same thing through bringing their clothes home to be washed.
How very presient of Grace to put itself into bankruptcy, just before this information became widely known, through Libby's activist, Gayla and Les. But wait a minute, wasn't Grace one of the companies written about in A Civil Action? They did not care much about killing a bunch of little children with leukemia in their drinking water, so why would anything in LIbby conern them.
It would really help if someone put on the Internet, known companies that are placing their workers at risk, so that we can all look at them from time to time and decide whether we want to do business with them or whether we want to buy their products.Read more ›
Reviewed by Neal Karlen
Special to the Star Tribune
Just because you're paranoid about the environment doesn't mean they're not out to poison you. So we learn in spellbinding, horrific detail in Andrew Schneider and David McCumber's "An Air That Kills," a jeremiad that does for the still-immediate peril of asbestos what Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed" did for the Corvair.
Of course, that sports car could simply be pulled out of production. Yet where does one even begin to deal with the ongoing fallout of generations worth of systemic, unregulated poisoning of our country by an industry that churned out uncountable tons of fibers of mass destruction, in a business most people wrongly think was brought to its knees around the time young Dubya was pledging Skull and Bones at Yale?
Schneider (winner of two Pulitzer Prizes) and McCumber center their exposé on Libby, a small town in the northwest corner of Montana that was mined from the 1920s to 1990 for asbestos-laden vermiculite ore, known commercially as Zonolite. W.R. Grace & Co., which bought the mine in 1963 and ramped up production, hid the risks of the toxic dust that by 1969 was being released into Libby's air at the rate of 2 1/2 tons a day.
It would be bad enough if the astronomical fatality rates of asbestos-related cancers had been localized in Libby. Unfortunately, Grace had sent billions of pounds of its tainted ore to more than 750 processing plants throughout North America, including two in Minneapolis; it's estimated that between 15 million and 35 million homes remain insulated with the product that the company always contended wasn't hazardous.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
AN informative book on a timely issue, in a very readable presentation. I'm a Realtor and had a need to understand more about the potential for problems with Vermiculite in a home... Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2010 by Margo Mc Nab
This book was truly stunning. I felt terrible for the residents of Libby, and just can not believe that this could have gone unanswered for so long. Read morePublished on March 22 2004
As one of the characters in the book, I am grateful to Andrew Schneider and David McCumber for portraying what has happened to Libby, Montana and its residents so thoughtfully and... Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2004 by Gayla Benefield
As a former resident of Libby Montana, this book brought home to me the deceit, greed and simple cruelty of Corporate America. Read morePublished on Feb. 5 2004 by R. Corey Foreman
Take time to read this well written and informative book. The story is tragic and will give the reader much to contemplate.Published on Feb. 3 2004
I have just completed "An Air that Kills" by Andrew Schneider and David McCumber. I grew up in Libby, MT, the birthplace of this story. Read morePublished on Feb. 1 2004 by Cindy I. Bundrock
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