W.R. Grace & Co. has agreed to pay up to $140 million to settle a class-action lawsuit from its attic-insulation that contained asbestos, reports the Associated Press.
The chemical company will pay $30 million cash into a trust fund, an additional $30 million cash after three years, and make up to 10 additional annual payments of $8 million if certain conditions are met. The settlement concerns the company's Zonolite attic insulation, a loose-fill vermiculite product that can contain naturally occurring asbestos. Zonolite has been installed in millions of homes, and hundreds of thousands of lawsuits filed against it pushed W.R. Grace into bankruptcy protection in 2001.
Much of the Zonolite came from a notorious vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, where thousands have been sickened and more than 200 died as a result of contamination. A Superfund site under clean-up, Libby is the subject of a recent award-winning documentary, which called it the place where "the American Dream went horribly wrong."
W.R. Grace expects this latest settlement to close the chapter on its liability for asbestos, and hopes to be able to emerge from bankruptcy and move forward.
The horrors of asbestos contamination can be seen as a reminder of how important it is to test consumer products for dangers as much as possible before, during and after release, and to strengthen the nation's line of regulatory defense.
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