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Ethics and Environmental Health


Libby and Beyond: A Public Symposium

May 1, 2004
"Libby and Beyond: A Public Symposium on Asbestos"
University Center Theater 1-5 pm

  • Paul Brodeur, author 
  • Andrew Schneider, author
  • Jim Fite, White Lung Association
  • Bill Ravanesi, Artist/Activist - Gayla Benefield - Colleen Lux

Two investigative journalists to speak about Libby's asbestos


Award-winning investigative journalists Andrew Schneider and Paul Brodeur will speak at "Stories From Libby and Beyond: The People and Politics of Asbestos," a public symposium at The University of Montana.

The free event will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 1, in the University Center Theater.

The symposium is part of "Landscape of Asbestos: Libby and Beyond," a collaboration that involves UM faculty and staff, the Missoula Art Museum and the Center for Asbestos Related Disease Clinic in Libby. Three months of exhibits, lectures and films are being presented at UM, the museum and in Libby to raise awareness of the many dimensions of asbestos issues.

Organizers say the symposium will show connections between Libby and asbestos controversies occurring nationally and internationally. "The situation in Libby is unique, but it is not isolated," said Steve Schwarze, UM assistant professor of communication studies. "The symposium will highlight these connections and raise the voices of citizens who are making them."

Schneider, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, drew national attention to asbestos exposure in Libby in a series of articles for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in late 1999. Since then Schneider has reported on the scope of the asbestos disaster in the United States. His recent book with David McCumber, "An Air That Kills: How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana, Uncovered a National Scandal," describes how government and industry have repeatedly ignored the dangers of asbestos, and how millions of citizens continue to face asbestos exposure.

Brodeur, a staff writer at The New Yorker for many years, wrote a pioneering piece about the asbestos health hazard for that magazine, and during the next 20 years was author of several series of articles and four books on the subject, including "Expendable Americans" and "Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial." One of his series won the National Magazine Award for 1973.

Schneider and Brodeur will be joined by panelists who will speak from personal experience about the impact of asbestos around the world. They are:

- Gayla Benefield, a Libby resident and president of the Lincoln County Asbestos Victims' Relief Organization. Benefield has spoken to national and international audiences about the Libby situation and her family's experience with asbestos-related disease.
- Jim Fite, executive director of the White Lung Association -- a national organization that advocates on behalf of the victims of asbestos exposure.
- Colleen Lux, a graduate of UM's environmental studies master's program. Lux wrote her thesis on the Libby Community Advisory Group and has since met with several asbestos victims' groups in Australia.
- Bill Ravanesi, an artist and activist. Ravanesi's father died of mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure. The art exhibition "Breath Taken: The Landscape and Biography of Asbestos" is on display April 21-June 26 at the Missoula Art Museum. It uses contemporary and vintage images, narrative, industry advertisements, objects and voice to document the impact of asbestos on communities and individuals throughout North America.

The symposium is supported by the White Lung Association and UM's Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Center for Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental Studies Program, School of Journalism and Faculty Development Committee of the Provost's Office. Other UM partners include the Department of Communication Studies and the National Rural Bioethics Project in the Department of Psychology.

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Photos courtesy of Dudley Dana, Dana Gallery