Crocidolite is one of six different fibrous minerals or varieties of the human carcinogen known as asbestos. This naturally occurring mineral consists of long fibers that are immensely strong and flexible, and it offers the best heat resistance of all forms of asbestos. Thanks to these defining features, crocidolite, also called “blue asbestos,” was widely used to insulate steam engines and it was used in pipe insulation, in some cement products, and in spray-on coatings before 1973 and as late as 1989.
Mined mainly in South Africa, where it occurs naturally in Precambrian banded-iron formations, crocidolite is one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos. Before the dangers of asbestos became widely known, crocidolite had another startling use. This tough and tensile fiber was used in certain cigarette filters, particularly in a cigarette brand called “Kent.” It was also used in tobacco pipes and cigarette papers.
Produced by the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the U.S.—Lorillard, Inc. (est. 1760), Kent is just one brand this tobacco company is famous for. Others include Newport (the 2nd most sold cigarette in the U.S.), True, Maverick, Old Gold, and the company’s latest addition blu eCigs. During the early to mid-1950s, Lorillard sold more than 13 billion crocidolite-filtered cigarettes, called “Micronite,” to smokers around the world.
Although sales of crocidolite cigarettes ceased in 1956 (two years after independent testing confirmed fiber release from Kent cigarette filters) many smokers had already spent four long years inhaling asbestos fibers, in addition to at least 50 cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarettes.
However, although extremely dangerous, none of these chemicals causes a unique form of cancer called “pleural mesothelioma,” which accounts for 60 percent (some estimates place this figure at 75 percent) of all asbestos-related cancers. Pleural mesothelioma is caused almost exclusively by inhaling crocidolite and other types of asbestos fibers over a sustained period of time.
As a result of this widespread exposure to crocidolite asbestos through Kent Micronite cigarette filters, related mesothelioma claims have been rising over the past 10+ years. And the damage awards have been extraordinary. The following are just a few examples:
- On May 8, 2000 Donna Traverso and Paul Bucedi of San Francisco, California were awarded $1,048,100 in a case filed against Lorillard. The siblings claimed that their mother, Daisy Bucedi, developed malignant abdominal mesothelioma from smoking Kent’s crocidolite filtered cigarettes from 1953 through 1956 when a new filter replaced the asbestos filter. Lorillard never warned consumers about the asbestos-containing filters.
- Ms. Bucedi continued smoking Kent brand cigarettes until 1979. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 1996 and died of the disease on December 29, 1997.
- Richard Delisle of Leesburg, Florida was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2012. He claimed that Kent cigarettes contributed to his condition. Delisle was awarded a total of $8 million with Lorillard paying out $3.52 million, with the remainder coming from the maker of the cigarette filters, a paper mill company, and a group of other defendants.
- Don Lenney of California, age 76, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2009. Lenney smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes as a young adult, and claimed that his condition was the result of inhaling the asbestos fibers contained in the cigarette filters. He sued Lorillard and Hollingsworth & Vose (est. 1843, paper and filter media manufacturer).
In 2011, both companies were found liable and Lenney was awarded $1.1 million in damages. The companies appealed later, but Mr. Lenney was still awarded damages in a confidential settlement. Today, Don Lenny is still alive, having survived mesothelioma for four years following the removal of his left lung, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments.
Kent’s crocidolite-laden Micronite filter was touted as safer than the unfiltered cigarettes that dominated the market prior to the 1950s. In fact, Lorillard claimed that its Micronite filter offered “the greatest health protection in cigarette history.” It was supposed to be the healthier alternative, consumers thought.
Now, 60 years later, Lorillard has settled nearly 100 cases involving its “healthy” Micronite filter—in just a short two-year period. Around 60 cases are pending and many more are expected to be filed.
If you smoked Kent cigarettes between 1952 and 1956 and/or you worked in a factory that manufactured Micronite filters, cigarettes, paper, or any other related components, you may have been exposed to asbestos. Contact a physician immediately for an evaluation and testing, especially if you are experiencing symptoms such as bloating and pain, cough, chest pain (especially when taking a deep breath), shortness of breath, fatigue, and/or weight loss.
You can also contact an attorney here at MRHFM to discuss your case. MRHFM is the largest firm exclusively devoted to helping mesothelioma victims and their families.
Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Daily Business Review (dbr), An ALM Media Publication
Hollingsworth & Vose
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
News Record, Greensboro, NC
The New York Times
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Wolfram Research Web