Duecker testimony continues
The defense continued analyzing the data and letters associated with the 1970s study conducted by chemist and former W.R. Grace employee Heyman Duecker in the W.R. Grace trial Wednesday morning .
The cross-examination came from defense attorney David Krakoff, who represents Henry Eschenbach. He focused his questions on establishing the processes that went into getting the “hamster study” off the ground.
Through Krakoff’s questioning, Duecker, a fact witness for the prosecution, expanded on a few topics.
In 1974, the Libby, Mont., mine closed its dry mill and began using its newly-built wet mill. Duecker explained how, at the time, this was a new process, as wet mills had not been constructed to separate tremolite and vermiculite.
Duecker confirmed that switching from a dry mill to a wet mill was intended to “improve worker health.” Krakoff asked him how important the wet mill was to the product development department at W.R. Grace at the time.
“It was certainly one of the biggest issues, probably one of the top three,” Duecker said.
Krakoff delved into how two scientists, Julie Yang and William Smith, became involved in the testing. Yang was brought in for consultation because of her strong chemistry background, as Grace’s product development team had limited knowledge of commercial asbestos. Duecker said Smith was the world’s best known animal researcher on the effects of exposure to asbestos.
Numerous memorandums and letters dating to the 1970s were examined by Krakoff. Eschenbach, the product development’s health and safety inspector, sent memos around the company in 1972 detailing the new OSHA standards and the permissible standard limit.
A couple months later, a memo from Eschenbach talked about reorganizing its air samples. Under magnification, fibers of tremolite were similar to chrystolite, a form of asbestos. According to Krakoff, this set in motion the process of re-examining materials found in Libby.
Each step in the progress of the animal studies was detailed in memos by Duecker. Two additional labs were brought in to help size the fibers to a testable level. This, Duecker said, was crucial in legitimizing the study.
The actual hamster study was done by injecting a “slurry with tremolite and water” into the hamster’s pleural cavity, which surrounds the lungs. Krakoff pointed out to the court that exposure this way was much different than the way humans come in contact with the substance.
After the study yielded five cases of mesothelioma in the hamsters, Smith sent a letter to Duecker in 1977. The letter, government exhibit 143, said that pleural injections cannot be “directly extrapolated” to be similar in humans. Meaning, different exposure methods could have different results.
Duecker said one of the goals of the study was to compare fibers with other companies with comparable materials. When compared to companies that handled similar material, such as John Mansville, Co. and Johnson and Johnson, Co., the results were right in the middle. The fibers were more carcinogenic than the J&J materials, but were less than the Mansville test results.
Court was adjourned for morning recess, with continuing Duecker testimony coming up after the break.
– Josh Benham (posted 12:02 P.M.)