For the seventh year in a row, Senator Baucus of Montana proposed legislation designating the first week of April for special focus on the prevalence of asbestos-related disease. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the resolution and has designated the week of April 1-7 as National Asbestos Awareness Week. Baucus represents the residents of Montana where nearly 300 people died in Libby from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Libby, Montana is the site of the W.R. Grace mine and mill that shut down in 1990 and is blamed for widespread contamination from asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and is proven to cause lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a serious cancer caused by breathing in the asbestos fibers that then become lodged in the thin membrane that lines and encases the lungs.
“We can never forget the suffering people in Libby have faced in the name of corporate greed. Asbestos Awareness Week is just one more way we can keep the folks in Lincoln County and people with asbestos-related disease everywhere in our thoughts and prayers,” said Baucus in a press release announcing the weeklong awareness resolution.
Senate resolution 66 urges the Surgeon General to warn and educate people about the public health issue of asbestos exposure, which may be hazardous to their health. The resolution cites the facts that asbestos is a known cause of occupational cancer; thousands of workers in the U.S. face significant asbestos exposure; and a significant percentage of all asbestos-related disease victims were exposed to asbestos on naval ships and in shipyards.
“We must do everything we can to help folks in Libby while preventing a similar tragedy in the future,” added Senator Tester, co-sponsor of the resolution. “Max and I will keep fighting for Libby and raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos to make Montana a safe, healthy place to live and work.”
Baucus was instrumental in urging the EPA to declare its first ever public health emergency in Libby, Montana. The declaration requires the federal government to offer screenings and health care for Libby residents as well as authorizing cleanup work in homes and other structures.
The resolution points out that asbestos-related diseases can take 10 to 50 years to present themselves, and the expected survival of people diagnosed with mesothelioma varies from 6 to 24 months. Most often diagnoses are not made until symptoms appear and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage leaving the patient with life-threatening complications. The resolution also notes that generally, little is known about late-stage treatment of asbestos-related diseases, and there is no cure for such diseases.
About 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States.
See the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization’s website for daily informational postings about asbestos.