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Millions Of Workers Are Still In Danger From Asbestos

  Mesothelioma Awareness Day Is September 26th

Nearly 20 million people will develop Mesothelioma in their lifetime due to exposure to asbestos

 

For over forty years workers’ health and safety groups have been fighting to ban asbestos in the United States and throughout the world. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been proven to cause substantial harm, even death to workers. Only 30% of countries have outright banned asbestos even after it was proven to cause mesothelioma, a deadly disease that has a one year mortality rate of nearly 64%.

History of Asbestos

For many years, asbestos was used in building construction mainly for its fire retardant properties. Internal structures were coated with asbestos fibers making them almost fire proof. It was not until many years later that the dangers of using asbestos began to surface. Materials containing asbestos are easily damaged and causes the microscopic, fibers to become airborne. Inhaling or ingesting these fibers, cause serious damage to the body, eventually developing into cancer or other diseases.

Though the first official case of a worker’s death stemming from asbestos exposure was in 1924, it would not be until 1976 before Congress would take action by passing the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce asbestos exposure. In 1989, Congress went one step further and outright banned the use of asbestos. The ban was subsequently overturned, but asbestos use has been limited to less than 1% of the overall product. In spite of their good intentions, workers are still at risk from asbestos and an estimated 20 million people will develop mesothelioma within their lifetime.

Asbestos Exposure At Work

Though the United States has limited asbestos use, those in the construction industry are especially still at risk for exposure. Asbestos is still commonly used in cement, insulation, caulking, and roofing shingles. It’s estimated that over 1 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos-containing materials each year and according to the NIOSH work-related lung disease report, nearly 15% of all malignant mesothelioma deaths in 1999 were workers in the construction industry.

Shipyard workers are also at high risk for developing mesothelioma due to a high exposure to asbestos. During WWII as America was building warships as fast as they could, asbestos became a key ingredient, finding use in gaskets and within boiler components. Nearly 4 million individuals working in naval yards or on ships during World War II were exposed to asbestos. However, construction and shipyard workers are not the only ones with an elevated risk of developing mesothelioma. Others include firefighters, mechanics, plant workers, railroad workers, sheet metal workers, hairdressers and many more. More information on what industries pose a greater risk for mesothelioma and occupational asbestos exposure can be found here.

Recently, reconstruction was halted at the Schiller Power Plant in Portsmouth, NH when OSHA received an anonymous tip that workers exposure to asbestos and mercury. OSHA quickly responded to the Manaford Brothers Inc employee who tipped them off. Manaford was then required to “immediately investigate the allegations and make any necessary correction.” Unscrupulous employers do not care about the health and welfare of their employees, they only care about reducing their costs and increasing their profits. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that our employers are following OSHA regulations for asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma

This year, September 26th has been designated as Mesothelioma Awareness Day.

On Mesothelioma Awareness Day, groups like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) are working to get people involved in the discussion, hosting a Twitter Chat on September 26th to discuss asbestos and raise awareness of this rare disease. Join in and spread the word to help advocate for a ban on asbestos in the United States and around the world.

Please use the Twitter hashtag #ENDmeso 

Asbestos Death Rate in New Hampshire Higher than National Average

  Asbestos-triggered diseases claim the lives of New Hampshire residents at a rate almost a third higher than the national average, according to a new state-by-state analysis by EWG Action Fund.

Washington, D.C. – Asbestos-triggered diseases claim the lives of New Hampshire residents at a rate almost a third higher than the national average, according to a new state-by-state analysis by EWG Action Fund.

Roughly 6.2 out of every 100,000 people in New Hampshire die each year from diseases caused by asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, asbestosis and certain lung cancers, compared to the national average of 4.7 deaths per 100,000. All of the Granite State’s 10 counties have asbestos death rates above the national average. Coos County has the highest rate – more than 10 people per 100,000.

 From analysis of federal records of deaths from mesothelioma and asbestosis and a formula developed by international cancer researchers for estimating lung cancer deaths from asbestos, EWG Action Fund estimates that 12,000 to 15,000 Americans die each year from exposure to the deadly fibers. From 1999 to 2013, EWG Action Fund estimates that more than 1,200 New Hampshire residents died from asbestos-related diseases.

Reasons for the high death rate in New Hampshire are uncertain. However, asbestos was once widely used in a number of the state’s leading industries, including shipbuilding and milling. Use has declined since 1980, when the dangers of asbestos became well known, but has not been eliminated.

“Many Americans mistakenly believe asbestos was banned decades ago,” said Alex Formuzis with EWG Action Fund. “It is still legal, still used in many consumer products, and still brings tragedy to thousands of victims and their families each year.”

That tragedy could be made by worse by legislation under consideration in Congress that would effectively delay and deny compensation to people from the various asbestos trusts.

 The legislation, the so-called FACT Act, with identical versions in the House (H.R. 526) and Senate (S. 357) would deplete the resources of the already-dwindling trust funds set aside to compensate asbestos victims. Adding insult to injury, the measure would also require public disclosure of victims’ personal information such as medical records and partial Social Security numbers, placing them at heightened risk of identity theft.

Officials of the asbestos trusts estimate that complying with the bill would require up to 20,000 additional hours per year at each trust – a burdensome and expensive mandate that would inevitably slow the processing of claims and distribution of payments.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporations with major asbestos liability, including Koch Industries, Honeywell, 3M, Allstate and Nationwide are some of the biggest backers of the bill. The House is poised to vote on its version of the so-called FACT Act in the coming weeks.

“Each member of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation has a choice to make,” said Formuzis. “Will they stand with those in the state who are sick and dying from asbestos-caused disease, or with the very industries that poisoned them to begin with?”

 

  EWG Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The mission of EWG Action Fund is to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of environmental issues. Donations to EWG Action Fund are not tax-deductible.

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