There’s a story out of Wisconsin about former employees of CSX Railroad looking into the use of asbestos in their workplace. “They claim asbestos was present in various types of packing materials, gaskets, floor tile, ceiling paint, brake shoes, steam hoses, firebrick, and welding gloves.” More on asbestos exposure.
A judge had appointed a mediator to try to resolve the dispute between W.R. Grace and victims of asbestos hazards created by that corporation. Today in the news there is a story about the breakdown of that negotiation. Too bad, because this might mean more litigation that W.R. Grace cannot possibly win. Grace tried to pull a stunt last year where they sent letters to victims in Libby Montana essentially saying: you’re not so sick.
In February the US Senate considered, and rejected, a bill to create a trust fund and limit mesothelioma lawsuits. Now Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector is trying to resurrect the bill to resolve what he calls a “crisis” in an opinion piece in The Hill. Spector wants to prevent mesothelioma victims from suing for full compensation. It is not clear that there is really a crisis here. These large corporations have a lot of money. The victims are individuals, and usually elderly. It’s a question of justice.
The asbestos industry covered up the hazards of the material for decades. Now they should own up to their responsibility.
A woman in York, England got mesothelioma, and the way she was exposed to asbestos was from her husband’s work clothing. “Marjorie Fox, 61, is believed to have contracted fatal cancer after almost 20 years of shaking the dust from her husband Kenneth’s overalls which he wore while working as a carpenter before putting them in the wash.”
We’ve seen this story before, and it is a particularly tragic way in which people get mesothelioma. Workplace hazards affecting not just the workers, but their family members who may never even set foot in the hazardous area.
Howard agrees to talks over asbestos. This newspaper article from Australia reports on the prime minister’s willingness to re-engage in talks about an asbestos compensation deal. Like the United States, Australia is trying to cope with the legacy of decades of asbestos use the tragedy of people with mesothelioma. It’s a tough public policy problem, and I don’t envy the legislators who have to grapple with it.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that the number of hospital admissions for asbestos diseases in Northern Ireland has approximately doubled in the past 10 years. “Many sufferers are former shipyard workers or tradesmen who used asbestos as a popular building material in the 1950s and 1960s.” Just like in the United States.
This article out of Australia describes the concern of geologists and health officials on the effects of natural asbestos. People living near these deposits can be put in danger when there is roadworks, construction, farming, or other disturbances. There has been no systematic medical assessment of this risk.
The Hill has an article today on Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy still trying to get Senate passage of a bill to replace the asbestos-litigation system with a $140 billion trust fund. Specter is quoted as saying this is the last chance for this bill, and there are significant obstacles to passage, including opposition from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Anyone who follows the asbestos tragedy is surely aware of the Libby, Montana situation. This mining town has experienced an epidemic of asbestos disease due to a vermiculite mine that W.R. Grace & Co operated there until 1990. The Libby residents have been battling for some redress and the Social Security Administration just announced that victims could qualify for diasbility benefits. The claimants must document they have an impairment that appears in Social Security’s “listings” to qualify.