In 1968 Paul Brodeur, a writer for The New Yorker magazine, published an article titled “The Magic Mineral” which brought the catastrophic story of asbestos to light for the general public. His long form article revealed the health hazards of one of the most common industrial and building materials used through most of the 20th century which caused thousands if not millions to suffer illness and death. He followed with a series of meticulously researched articles for The New Yorker which outlined the decades of efforts by the asbestos industry to cover up hazards and resist regulation. The series won a National Magazine Award in 1973 and created a road map for thousands of lawsuits brought on behalf of asbestos victims throughout the country. In 1985, Brodeur wrote another series of articles chronicling trends in asbestos litigation as well as some of the industry’s efforts to thwart compensating those who suffered diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. These series of articles were compiled in the seminal book, “Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial”. He described countless cover-ups as well as the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Johns-Manville in 1982, a liability dodging strategy still utilized to this day by companies such as Georgia Pacific, Ingersoll-Rand and Johnson & Johnson. He was credited with writing in a manner that explained complex medical and legal topics in a manner that was understandable and compelling to the general public.
Brodeur was ahead of his time in exposing the misdeeds of industry and its devastating effects on public health. Not only was he the first to bring attention to the tragic history of asbestos, in 1975 and again in 1986 he published groundbreaking articles about the use of chlorofluorocarbons, the resulting depletion of the ozone layer, and the effects on health and the environment. He also published about the effects of electromagnetic radiation from microwave ovens and high tension power lines.
Brodeur attended Phillips Andover Academy and Harvard University. Before and after working at The New Yorker, he lived in eastern Massachusetts. He died on August 2, 2023 at the age of 92.