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Asbestos Was Not Used in Kleenex, Maker Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kimberly-Clark Corp. acknowledged Thursday that it did buy asbestos from Union Carbide for use in a paper product decades ago, but said the asbestos was not used in Kleenex, only in paper it made for use as a sandpaper backing.

Kimberly-Clark said it stopped production of the sandpaper backing in the 1970s.

A Kimberly-Clark spokeswoman released additional information Thursday that the company said shows it could not have been the asbestos customer touted in a Carbide memo recently discovered in litigation as saving money by using the carcinogenic mineral fiber as a softening agent in tissue.

“We can say with certainty that the company cited in the bulletin was not Kimberly-Clark,” said spokeswoman Tina Barry. “All of the tissue machines we owned at the time were larger--produced a wider paper than were cited in the bulletin.”

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Union Carbide’s Asbestos Information Bulletin, a memo believed to be from the late 1960s, describes an effort to market asbestos for use as a cheap softener in tissues. The memo suggests that at least one paper maker bought asbestos from Union Carbide for use in tissue, but it does not name the company.

“This trial indicated that this paper company can save $174,000 per year in their facial operation alone,” the memo says. “Result of this work with this paper company: The company now uses asbestos in all products--tissue, towels and facial tissue.”

The memo also refers to “Clark softness values,” which led at least one lawyer representing asbestos victims to suspect Kimberly-Clark.

But Barry said that phrase refers to J.A. Clark, a man who developed one of several tissue softness tests but had no association with Kimberly-Clark. Kimberly-Clark never used J.A. Clark’s test, Barry said.

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