The Washington Post reports (via the Los Angeles Times) the passing of Les Skramstad, one of the early leaders notifying the world about the dangers from the Libby Montana vermiculite mine. Skramstad worked there from 1959 to 1962 and was diagnosed with asbestosis in 1996. He subsequently got mesothelioma, which is what he died from. A landmark in this long, strange story.
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.
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.
Stunning article (opinion piece) out of The Herald (Scotland). Writer Joan McAlpine lays out the case for mesothelioma patients: the fact that asbestos companies knew of the hazards and continued to produce this hazardous material.
“Mesothelioma sufferers already know what is killing them: exposure to asbestos dust. So they know who is to blame: irresponsible employers. The direct link between the insulating material and disease was established in 1960, according to the British Lung Foundation. Yet asbestos remained popular in the UK for two more decades. Its use increased considerably between 1960 and 1975. Workmen bored holes in it, lagged pipes with it and lined walls with it. Later, they demolished buildings full of the stuff, breathing in clouds of deadly dust in the process.”
This story from The Age notes that government official Richard Marles refers Australia having the most sufferers of mesothelioma per capita in the world. ” “In many respects Australia is lagging behind other parts of the world and we need to lift our game,” Mr Marles said.”
Per this, “Asbestos-related cancer victims will not get full compensation through the courts unless they sue all the employers that exposed them to asbestos, following a Law Lords ruling last week.”
Senator Dick Durbin gave a good speech in the capitol the other day. He said the underfunded “trust fund” for asbestos victims, proposed by some lawmakers, would end up as a corporate bailout at the expense of taxpayers and victims.
Durbin pointed out that as early as 1934, some of the companies that were making products out of asbestos came to realize there was a danger, that some of the employees working around this asbestos ended up developing lung problems and some of them were fatal. Yes! Some people on Capitol Hill get it. The asbestos industry wasn’t ignorant. They knew full well asbestos killed people and they went ahead anyway.