U.S. Senator Max Baucus continued in his role as a champion in the fight against asbestos in the workplace, drawing the praises of America’s leading advocacy group.
Baucus (D-Montana) announced this week that the U.S. Senate passed his Resolution 389, designating again a National Asbestos Awareness Week (April 1-7).
It was the sixth consecutive year Baucus introduced the resolution designed to honor the victims from Libby, Montana, who either have died or suffered serious health problems from an asbestos-related disease.
Libby, a small, picturesque town nestled close to the Northern Rocky Mountains, is the site of the worst community-wide exposure to a toxic substance in American history.
An estimated 400 people have died and another 1,700 have been sickened from the asbestos fibers that were mined in Libby by the W.R. Grace Company.
The mine was closed in 1990, but cleanup continues and liability lawsuits still are being waged by families who have suffered through the tragedy. Many of those who died from asbestos diseases like mesothelioma worked in the mine, but others merely lived in the community and inhaled the asbestos fibers that hung in the air.
“Although we never can fully right the outrageous wrong that took place in Libby, we can fight to make sure the community has the tools it needs to heal,” Baucus said in a news release. “Asbestos Awareness Week is a rallying cry to keep the tragedy of Libby from happening again.”
Key supporters of the resolution and co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Joe Tester (D-Montana), Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), and Dianne Feinstein (D-California).
In recognition of his earlier efforts, Baucus received the Tribute of Hope Award in 2011 from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which is based in California.
“It is with gratitude that I congratulate Senator Baucus and his co-sponsors for their leadership in recognizing the devastating effects that asbestos has brought upon this nation,” said Dr. Richard Lemen, ADAO Science Advisory co-chairman. “Continued leadership by the Senate is needed to resolve the still pending issues related from exposure to asbestos.”
Although asbestos is banned in more than 50 countries around the world, the United States continues to import the mineral for commercial use. It has not been mined in the United States since 2002.
According to the latest United States Geological Survey, 1,100 metric tons were imported in the first seven months of 2011, which is an increase from the previous two years. An estimated 60 percent of that total is being used in roofing products.
“ADAO applauds the U.S. Senate for unanimously passing (the Baucus resolution). . . . However, it is shocking and unacceptable that the United States continues to endanger public health by importing 1,100 metric tons of chrysotile asbestos,” said Linda Reinstein, president of ADAO.
Reinstein has been the driving force behind ADAO since its inception almost a decade ago and behind the recognition of the Asbestos Awareness Week. She will be one of the featured speakers at the annual Asbestos Awareness Conference that begins March 30 in Los Angeles.