Asbestos Villain Offers Peanuts

Ironically, William Russell Grace, born 10 May 1832 in the village of Ballylinan in County Laois, Ireland, was the epitome of the American Dream. He arrived in America during the first potato famine in the 1840s when hatred of and discrimination against Irish immigrants was at a fiery intensity; he eventually became the first Roman Catholic mayor of New York City, and acquired enough wealth to be able to contribute 25 percent of all the charitable aid given to Irish victims during the second famine of the 1870s.

Today, he is remembered mainly by the corporation that bears his name: W.R. Grace and Company. Sadly, W.R. Grace is a name that will live in infamy among asbestos victims, the sad legacy of a man who during his lifetime tried to do so much good. The W.R. Grace Company was responsible for the death and misery–attributable to asbestos–that has visited the working people of Libby, Montana. On 13 March, 2008, this corporation has agreed to pay $250 million “… for the investigation and cleanup of asbestos contamination around Libby , Montana .” Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Let’s put these amounts into perspective.

Were you to receive one million dollars, and chose to spend it at the rate of $1000 per day, it would take you approximately 3-1/2 years to spend all of it. This means that the amount that W.R. Grace & Company is offering to the people of Libby would, at that rate, last you throughout your lifetime–assuming you received the full $250 million at age 20 and lived to be 95 (we’re not taking inflation into account, here). Still sounds like a lot, right? Until you realize that the W.R. Grace Company is still worth $1.5 billion. That $250 million is only 16% of the net worth of the company, a net worth that was created by mining and selling a deadly substance. What they are offering for the illnesses and deaths that their products have caused is mere pocket change . One has to wonder how William Russell Grace would feel about that.