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The Politics of Asbestos – US Government Failed the People Declares Senator Baucus

At a recent hearing of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Max Baucus presented a report revealing that the Federal government failed to take the appropriate action to declare Libby, Montana a public health emergency in 2002. The disregard of the federal government led to a lack of funding and manpower in cleaning up the asbestos contamination according to the Senator.

“EPA was going to let people know, but they were changed from their direction. A Public Health Emergency definitely would have helped--- it would have provided media and public attention. Without a Public Health Emergency, asbestos has not become a public health issue. That’s the politics of asbestos."
Libby Montana was the former vermiculite mine site of W.R.Grace & Company. Vermiculite is a form of asbestos, a known carcinogen. Grace recently agreed to globally settle all of its asbestos claims for $3 Billion.

The exposure to asbestos has been long linked to several disease including, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure occurs when the toxic particles are ingested or inhaled into the body. When asbestos articles attach themselves to the lining of the lung, pleural mesothelioma, a fatal disease, results. The fibers may also attach themselves to the mesothelioma linings surrounding the heart and abdomen.

Libby Montana was declared a Federal Superfund site in 1999. Following that declaration, the Federal government has poured millions of dollars into cleaning up the asbestos-contaminated site. The failure to declare the site a public health emergency limited the Federal government’s role in providing even more extensive cleanup operations and healthcare to those residents who innocently suffered the avoidable exposure to asbestos.

Further reading:

Senate Hearing

Statement by Senator Baucus

$3.5 Settlement Agreed to By W.R. Grace

The Asbestos Debate is Over

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