Who Ya Gonna Believe…?

Earlier this month, we reported that DuPont Chemical, which by most accounts is one of the worst corporate polluters on Earth, is currently facing a corporate death sentence. The current ongoing asbestos trial, Whisnat et. al. v. DuPont Nemours is as of this writing entering its fourth week. The suit is on behalf of Willis Whisnat Jr., who died from cancer about ten years ago–and therein lies the other side of the story. Whisnat worked for DuPont as a pipefitter at its Sabine, Texas, facility.

The form of cancer from which he died was mesothelioma, which as you know has only one proven cause. There is little argument that he was exposed to enough asbestos to cause the condition that killed him. On the other hand, Whisnat smoked cigarettes his entire life. In addition, witnesses who knew Whisnat and worked with him forty years ago have testified that he was never known to have worn a respirator on the job. According to DuPont’s lawyers, the corporation had safety policies in place that required employees working in extremely dusty areas to wear such respirators. An expert witness for the plaintiff who is an industrial hygienist has countered that argument by pointing out that workers “were not capable of determining when they were working in ‘extreme’ dusty conditions. “As tempers flared, the expert witness began shouting angrily at DuPont’s lawyer: “I’m upset with [DuPont] for not implementing [adequate asbestos safety] programs!” The expert witness has testified that DuPont was “well aware” of asbestos hazards, and did nothing to protect workers until the federal government forced them to do so.

Consider the sources: on one hand, the testimony of a professional industrial hygienist, a victim whose cancer–despite his tobacco use–has only one known documented cause, and a general history of corporate cover-ups and suppression of known health issues related to asbestos. On the other hand, a huge, global corporation with a dismal environmental record and a demonstrated indifference to human health and well being. Who would you believe…?