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People in eight Texas counties are dying from asbestos-related diseases at an alarming rate – the mortality rates in these counties is so high that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has dubbed the area “Asbestos Alley.”
A recent EWG analysis shows the mortality rate in some portions of the region are more than four times the U.S. rate and more than seven times the Texas rate.
The EWG analyzed the area known as the “Golden Triangle,” a region that includes the cities of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur. This highly industrialized area is largely known for its prosperity, but that wealth comes with a price. According to the EWG, asbestos-related diseases killed more than 14,000 Texans between 1999 and 2013, with more than 1,200 of those deaths occurring in “Asbestos Alley.”
Here is a breakdown of the asbestos death rates in the eight counties the EWG analyzed:
Several industries based in the area have used asbestos for decades, including petrochemical, oil and gas and shipbuilding operations. They used the deadly material in buildings, chemical facilities and vessels due to its fire- and heat-resistant qualities.
Even though asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma and other debilitating – and fatal – illnesses, it remains legal in the U.S. The EWG reports that approximately 8 million pounds of the deadly material has been imported into the U.S. since 2006 – with nearly all of that coming into the Port of Houston and the Port of New Orleans.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the dangers of asbestos, as well as the fact that the mortality rate in his own backyard is staggeringly high, Republican U.S. Congressman Blake Farenthold has sponsored a piece of legislation that would make it far more difficult for asbestos victims to seek compensation.
Named the FACT (Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency) Act, the bill would place incredible burdens on asbestos victims and their families trying to obtain compensation for medical bills and other expenses. If this bill becomes law, asbestos trusts would be able to force plaintiffs in asbestos lawsuits to provide costly, time-consuming reports as well as private information. Not only would plaintiffs face a heightened risk of identity theft, many of them would not be able to afford to produce the reports. As a result, many victims would simply choose not to pursue legal action – and that is exactly what asbestos manufacturers want.
The FACT Act may come up for a House of Representatives vote later this month, so there is still time to voice your opposition. Contact your local Congressional representative and let him or her know how disgusted you are with the FACT Act.