An ex-employee of specialty chemicals and materials company, W.R. Grace & Co. says he warned his former management of the dangers of asbestos in 1976

Minneapolis, Minnesota (MesotheliomaCancerNews.Com) –An ex-employee of specialty chemicals and materials company, W.R. Grace & Co. says he warned his former management of the dangers of asbestos in 1976, during the time when studies were being released showing consumer products were releasing high concentrations of the dangerous fibers.

“I felt there was a train wreck occurring and I wanted to tell my boss,” said Robert Locke, a former Grace employee who was terminated from the company in 1998.

A Montana newspaper, the Missoulian reported his testimony on its Web site Monday.

The Columbia, Md.-based company and five former company officials are now being accused of endangering the lives of their workers and the surrounding community by mining asbestos-laced ore, and blatantly violating of federal law.

According to the Associated Press, “Locke has been named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the environmental crimes case against Grace, and federal charges could still be forthcoming based on his trial testimony. He has been involved in litigation against the construction products giant for more than a decade. Locke was contacted by investigators from the Department of Justice in November 2004.”

“I was concerned about my own criminal liability from my involvement with the company,” Locke said. “I was on a list of criminal conspirators.”

However, Locke has rejected immunity offers from federal prosecutors, opting to testify at the trial regardless.

Locke started employment at Grace in 1974 and promoted several times before completing his career in the construction division as global vice president and chief technical officer. He teamed up with defendant Robert Bettacchi to moderate the company’s health, safety and environmental issues.

Locke testified that he was assigned to various “fiber-reduction” programs after government agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began getting more stringent on asbestos regulations.

“Things were getting hot with OSHA. It would have put us out of business. There was no way we could comply,” Locke said of the high fiber counts.

Grace began taking action to cut down on asbestos exposure at company plants throughout the country, but Locke said the actions taken – dust pickup kits and clean sweepers — were not effective.

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