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Senate moves to declare National Asbestos Awareness Week

A resolution sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and supported by a bipartisan group of legislators has designated the first week of April as National Asbestos Awareness Week.


Baucus has introduced a similar resolution every year since 2006 as a way to honor the nearly 300 people in Libby, Montana who have died from asbestos-related disease. Many of the victims worked at the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine that shut down in 1990.


“Asbestos Awareness Week is a rallying cry to keep the tragedy of Libby from happening again,” said Baucus, who helped convince the Environmental Protection Agency to declare a public-health emergency at the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site in 2009. “It’s also an opportunity to remind people that much more work lies ahead to help victims of asbestos-related diseases.”


The resolution, SR-63, urges the U.S. Surgeon General to warn and educate people about the dangers of asbestos exposure, which causes a rare, aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. There is no cure for the disease, and treatments are limited. Mesothelioma kills 2,000 to 3,000 Americans annually. Although asbestos manufacture has been banned in the U.S. since 1989, those numbers are expected to stay at the same level or rise in the near future because mesothelioma usually takes 30-50 years to emerge after asbestos exposure.


Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), said increasing awareness of the dangers of asbestos is one way the United States can lead the global effort to ban mining and manufacture of the deadly substance. At least 55 countries, including all the nations of the European Union, have already banned production and use of asbestos.


“Our leadership continues to set an important example through this yearly initiative,” Reinstein said in a statement. “We have witnessed pivotal change as doctors, scientists, governmental bodies, educators and asbestos victims come together to share information that has the power to save lives. We look forward to continued progress and each year we get closer to a future without asbestos.”


The ADAO will mark National Asbestos Awareness Week by bringing together renowned experts and asbestos victims to discuss the impact of asbestos on public health, the environment, and the economy. The 2011 Asbestos Awareness Conference will be held April 1-3 in Atlanta.


Baucus will be honored at the event with the Tribute of Hope Award for his “tireless efforts fighting on behalf of residents of Libby, Lincoln County and asbestos victims everywhere.”