The Independent has revealed that staff at the world's biggest asbestos factory spied on journalists and environmental campaigners who were involved in exposing the dangers of the deadly mineral.
The long latency period between exposure to the fibre and the development of asbestos-related diseases meant that iuse of the material wasn't completely outlawed until 1999, but during the 1980s concerns surrounding asbestos were rife.
Twelve years' worth of research by a campaigner led to revelations that, during the 1980s, executives at Rochdale-based company Turner and Newall were involved in covert surveillance of people associated with investigating the dangers of asbestos – and even accused them of communism.
The research also showed that former MP Cyril Smith was working with the company in their attempts to discredit a documentary that explored how asbestos workers were dying from cancer – at this point the public's knowledge of mesothelioma was scant. This comes after it was revealed several years ago that executives at Turner and Newall wrote Smith's parliamentary speech on the safety of asbestos.
Many people are now calling for a full-scale investigation into the actions of Turner and Newall during this time period.
The researcher behind the revelations told The Independent: "There now needs to be a full investigation into Turner and Newall's role in undermining the democratic process and its links with Cyril Smith.
"Instead of defending dying workers and their families, he went on the offensive to defend asbestos."
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