S&P Report Highlights Threat of Silica Claims

June 11, 2004

Standard & Poor’s announced that it is “keeping a close eye on developments” in the area of silica exposure, as they “could produce the kinds of litigation and insurance problems that asbestos has.”

“The parallels to asbestos are of concern to us,” warned John Iten, credit analyst and director in Standard & Poor’s Insurance Ratings sector. The similarities are apparent from both health and legal standpoints. As more and more lawsuits are filed over silica exposure, they are likely to mirror the asbestos trend, with litigation reaching beyond the silica manufacturers to industrial users, manufacturers of respirators, and even retailers.

S&P noted that “because so many industries use silica and because of the long latency period for developing health problems from exposure, the number of potential defendants and claimants is huge.”

Silica claims could have serious consequences for the insurance industry. “Those writing general liability or commercial umbrella policies have exposure,” Iten explained, “and up to this point, most insurers have not written silica exclusions into their policies.”

The bulletin noted that many insurers are aware of the growing potential for large settlements involving silica and have begun setting aside reserves.

The full article, “Silica Concerns Grow But Disclosure Limited,” is available on RatingsDirect, Standard & Poor’s Web-based research analysis system. Non-subscribers may purchase a copy of the article by calling 212-438-9823 or sending an e-mail to: research_request@standardandpoors.com.

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