Judith Stadler was named as a representative for the one of the world's largest chemical companies to testify before the court with the purpose of investigating the existence and depth of DuPont's knowledge concerning the dangers of asbestos as well as what it did or did not do to protect workers. Some of the company's internal communications from the 1960s show that DuPont management knew about the risks of asbestos exposure but chose to hide the information from its workers and the public.
Although Dupont did not manufacture asbestos products, it did use materials containing asbestos in its chemical plants for countertops, lab equipment (such as Bunsen burner pads), and protective heat- and chemical-resistant clothing. Attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate that thousands of Dupont employees or employees of contractors could have been exposed to asbestos in the past decades.
As part of a huge class action lawsuit against DuPont Chemical, plaintiffs claim that DuPont management was aware of asbestos dangers as early as 1940, but chose to conceal that information instead of instituting policies that would have protected workers' health.
Willis Whisnant Jr., who worked at Dupont as a pipefitter in 1966, died from mesothelioma in 1999. After his death, his family joined the class action suit, claiming that DuPont negligently and maliciously exposed workers to asbestos when the company knew asbestos dust and fibers created health hazards.
A former safety program supervisor, Kenneth Keuper, worked at DuPont from the mid-1950s through the late 1970s. He testified that at times pipe fitters and insulators working with asbestos would kick up so much dust that the hazardous substance would fill a room, and it would become so thick with dust that "you could not see to the other side of the room."
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Clearly, Dupont cannot deceive Americans any longer. Asbestos-related diseases have been known and documented for more than 100 years. In 1924, the first clear case of death due to asbestosis was published in the British Medical Journal.
By the 1930s, asbestos manufacturers and their insurance companies knew that asbestos was killing workers at alarming rates. In 1934, Aetna Insurance Company devoted a chapter to asbestos exposure when it published the Attorney's Textbook of Medicine, stating that asbestosis was "incurable and usually results in total permanent disability followed by death." World War II increased asbestos manufacturing, and by the 1960s thousands of people were dying from asbestos exposure each year.