Terry M. Spear
Coming from Butte, Mont., home of the largest open pit mine in the U.S., it may not come as a surprise that Terry M. Spear ended up working in a field related to mining. Spear is a leading expert in industrial hygiene, particularly as it relates to mines, and is expected to be called by the government to give his expertise and opinion in the trial of W.R. Grace.
Spear has 15 years of experience providing testimony in depositions and court. He is expected to provide information for the U.S. government about the air in and around the mining facilities of W.R. Grace in Libby, Mont. He will likely discuss the respiratory protection that should have been used to protect workers and the cleaning procedures that might have kept workers from wearing contaminated clothes home from work.
Spear received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from the University of Montana in 1975. After a few years of working as an industrial hygienist, he returned to school to get his master’s in Environmental Health from the University of Minnesota in 1980.
He worked as a senior engineer for EG&G Idaho Inc. out of Idaho Falls where he evaluated ventilation systems and investigated and monitored work environments until 1983. During that time, he also taught classes in Industrial Hygiene and Mines, and Environmental Health at the University of Idaho in Idaho Falls.
With this teaching experience, he was hired by the Montana Tech School of Mines in Butte in 1983, where he continues to teach as a tenured professor. During the time he was teaching, he also completed his Ph.D. in Environmental Health in 1996 from the University of Minnesota. Spear has published 15 peer-reviewed articles in the areas of Environmental Health, including a study analyzing the winter air around Yellowstone Park to monitor the influence of snowmobile engine exhaust.
According to his resume, Spear’s specialty is researching the behavior and characteristics of aerosols, which are defined as fine particles suspended in a gas, and the respiratory protection necessary to protect against toxic aerosols. When tremolite fibers are released into the air, the resulting mixture qualifies as an aerosol.
According to his deposition, the 55-year-old Spear has testified in three other trials related to Grace (‘97, ‘98, and ‘99) and has examined Grace’s practices and site photos and has interviewed workers. He is familiar with the hygiene standards that were practiced at the mine. He is expected to testify that the link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer was recognized in the industrial hygiene literature as early as the 1940s.
As mentioned in Spear’s deposition, the prosecution may also introduce evidence that Spear can verify showing that Grace had knowledge of the dangers of asbestos exposure as early as 1964. The 1964 Montana State Report sent to Grace refers to a 1964 study by Irving Selikoff which showed the potential hazards of asbestos to workers’ families. A March 1969 letter to Rodney Vining, president of the Construction Products Division, includes a reference to an Oct. 12, 1968, New Yorker article chronicling mesothelioma cases among women who had washed the clothes of their husbands who worked with asbestos. Using this and other evidence, Spear seems poised to testify that the Grace operations in Libby did not have good industrial sanitation even though the company was aware of the risks to its workers and their families. This testimony would presumably go toward the conspiracy charge.
Spear has been married for 27 years and has a son and a daughter in their 20s. Like many people from Montana, he said he actively participates in outdoor activities afforded by the mountains, including hunting and rafting rivers. But three years ago, he ventured with his daughter to some different mountains and now proudly displays a plaque on his desk attesting to his assent of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Maybe Spear can fall back on this experience as he tries to aid the prosecution in tackling the mountainous task of proving that Grace executives conspired to keep secret the hazardous nature of tremolite.
– Laura L. Lundquist