UK asbestos giant spied and lied in attempt to discredit critics

Executives at the world’s biggest asbestos factory spied on journalists and  safety and environmental campaigners who exposed the killer dust’s dangers.

Secret industry documents seen by The Independent newspaper reveal that the executives at Rochdale-based asbestos giant Turner and Newall (T&N) monitored people they considered to be “subversive” and kept a dossier on their activities at the height of the debate about the mineral’s safety in the 1980s.

Those identified in the report include the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) – the organisation that set up what became Hazards magazineAlan Dalton, the now deceased former union national safety officer and author of ‘Asbestos Killer Dust’, journalists working on an award-winning asbestos documentary and Friends of the Earth.

Also targeted was Nancy Tait, the founder of the world’s first asbestos victims’ advocacy group, an asbestos widow who died in 2009. The firm then used a media and political campaign in an attempt to discredit its critics.

The T&N documentation was unearthed from the company’s archives by Manchester Metropolitan University researcher Jason Addy as part of 12 years of research into the firm’s toxic legacy. He said: “My research findings give me great cause for concern.” The trained lawyer called for “an investigation into Turner and Newall’s role in undermining the democratic process.”

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