National Asbestos Awareness Week
Montana senators push bipartisan resolution
Starting in 1919, vermiculite ore was mined in Libby, Montana. In fact, 80% of the world’s supply of vermiculite was extracted from the Libby vermiculite mine until its closure in 1990.
A unique mineral that expands like popcorn when heated, vermiculite has been used for decades as loose-fill attic insulation, soil conditioner and filler in concrete aggregate. Unfortunately, the vermiculite ore from the Libby mine was contaminated with asbestos, a deadly toxin whose microscopic fibers can cause several devastating diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
A Tragic Legacy
Leftover tailings from the mining process at Libby were donated to the town and nearby hamlets for use as filler in school parking lots, playgrounds, residential backyards and neighborhood parks, leading to contamination of the entire community. Thousands of residents were sickened with asbestos-related diseases over many decades throughout the populated areas of Lincoln County, Montana. Hundreds died. W.R. Grace & Company, owners of the mine since 1963, knew the asbestos-laden vermiculite was harming workers and residents but purposely kept the evidence secret in order to maximize profits and avoid liability. Libby was eventually designated a Superfund Cleanup site in 1999 due to the extraordinary degree of asbestos contamination.
Until the coronavirus pandemic, this unprecedented community-wide exposure to asbestos in Libby was considered one of the largest environmental and public health disasters the nation had ever faced. In fact, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry determined in 2015 that people living in Libby have a risk of dying from an asbestos-related disease that is 40 to 60 times greater than the rest of the nation’s population.
No matter the grave consequences, the century-long devastation in Libby from exposure to asbestos caused by corporate malfeasance has faded from collective memory in recent years. Asbestos lawsuits rarely make headlines anymore. Just like our complacency since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, people have largely stopped thinking about how dangerous asbestos is, forgetting that the carcinogenic mineral still lurks in building, brake, and insulation products because it has never been outlawed in the United States.
Bringing attention back to this insidious killer is the primary motivation behind two senators from Montana who wish to call awareness to the devastating illnesses that exposure to asbestos continues to cause. U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Steve Daines (R-Montana) have joined with fellow senators Jeffrey Merkley, Sheldon Whitehouse, Thomas Carper and Richard Durbin to put forth a resolution calling for the first week of April 2021 to be declared “National Asbestos Awareness Week”.
A Powerful Message
The resolution, proposed to the first session of the 117th Congress, states in part that the inhalation of dangerous, invisible asbestos fibers can cause significant damage, including cancers, malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other health problems. The proposition goes on to note that the United States continues to import tons of the fibrous mineral each year for use in certain products, causing thousands of people in the United States to continue to face significant asbestos exposure, including the residents of Libby, Montana.
It is the senators’ hope that by designating the first week of April 2021 as National Asbestos Awareness Week, public awareness will be raised about the continuing prevalence of asbestos-related diseases. The resolution urges the Surgeon General of the United States to warn and educate people about the public health issue of asbestos exposure and requests that that the Secretary of the Senate transmit a copy of the resolution to the Office of the Surgeon General.
Add Your Voice
Baron & Budd supports this bipartisan effort to shine a light on the continuing hazard of asbestos exposure. We have long aided in efforts to pass legislation making the importation and use of all asbestos products illegal in this country. Sixty-seven other countries around the world have already banned asbestos entirely. You can add your voice to the collective call to end the use of asbestos in our nation. Get involved. Write to your legislator. File a lawsuit. Share your experience.
If you or someone you love has been affected by mesothelioma cancer caused by asbestos, you might be able to take legal action against the asbestos manufacturers responsible for your suffering. Please contact Baron & Budd online or call 855-280-7664 to learn more.