Asbestos Hazards Still With Us

The first week of April was again designated National Asbestos Awareness Week by a resolution passed in the U.S. Senate.

Asbestos remains a problem, and the two U.S. senators from Montana, Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Steve Daines, supported a resolution that passed the U.S. Senate designating the first week of April as National Asbestos Awareness Month. Senate Resolution 98 was supported by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. "Each year, an estimated 15,000 Americans die from preventable asbestos-caused diseases, yet imports continue. Undoubtedly, the resolution's momentum and the forthcoming U.S. surgeon general's asbestos warning will raise awareness and save lives," said Linda Reinstein, ADAO's president.

A CDC study published in March 2017 in MMWR showed that there were a total of 45,221 deaths in the United States during 1999-2015 with malignant mesothelioma mentioned on the death certificate as the underlying or contributing cause of death, and those deaths increased from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015.

Tester and Daines urged the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, to warn and educate the public about asbestos exposure. "Too many folks have suffered and lost their lives to asbestos poisoning, and it's our responsibility to make sure Montanans and all Americans understand its risks," said Tester. "Asbestos has led to tragedy in communities like Libby and Troy. By making education and awareness a priority, we can protect our families from these life-threatening diseases."

"By continuing to raise awareness about the deadly effects of asbestos we can prevent future widespread issues in communities across the country," Daines said. "We can never be too educated about asbestos and its terrible effects to guard against them and ensure the folks in Libby know they have our support."

According to Tester's office, more than 400 Montana residents have died from asbestos dust exposure caused by the vermiculite mine W.R. Grace & Company once operated in Libby, Mont.

EMSL Analytical, Inc., which offers asbestos testing and test kits, said Senate Resolution 98 reminds the U.S. public that asbestos hazards still exist. "This is primarily due to its past use, but the United States continues to consume tons of the fibrous minerals each year in certain products," according to the company, which said the Senate action is a "big victory for environmental professionals and public health advocates who work to protect American workers and the public from the dangers of asbestos exposure."

"Even though many people think the use of asbestos has been banned in the U.S., that is not the case as there are still products that legally contain it," said Joe Frasca, senior vice president of Marketing at EMSL Analytical, Inc. "Even asbestos-containing materials from decades ago can still be found on the inside and outside of countless residential, commercial, and institutional buildings across the country. As these materials age and become friable, they can be an inhalation hazard. This is also true anytime these materials are disturbed during renovation, remodeling, or demolition activities if the proper safety precautions were not implemented."

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