Study Details Fatalities in Each U.S. County - Warns of Congressional Plan to Deny Victims Help
WASHINGTON, March 4 - As the U.S. Senate considers a bill to protect companies from lawsuits brought by hundreds of thousands of Americans harmed by asbestos, the first-ever analysis of federal mortality records finds that 10,000 Americans die each year from asbestos exposure, and projects that up to ten times that many will die in the next decade.
More Americans die each year from cancers and other illnesses caused by asbestos than from fires and drowning combined, according to the study released today by the EWG Action Fund. Since 1979, more than 43,000 Americans have died from asbestos-related diseases, and the study details for the first time the death toll in each state and county nationwide. (The study is available at www.ewg.org.)
Although many Americans believe that asbestos has already been banned and its victims have been compensated by the courts, the EWG Action Fund study found that the conventional wisdom about this deadly material is almost completely wrong. Says Action Fund researcher Richard Wiles, lead author: "We took a new look at an old subject and found that asbestos is not an economic issue but a public health crisis - one that has yet to reach its peak."
The study reports that 30 million pounds of asbestos are used in the U.S. each year, lists dozens of widely-used consumer products that still contain it, and says more than one million workers are exposed every year. For the first time, EWG Action Fund's interactive website shows Americans how close they live to a site where asbestos was shipped or processed. The study lists sites nationwide where asbestos cleanup is most critical and finds that more than 100,000 people live within half a mile of a site.
The website goes behind doors at asbestos companies, making public decades of secret documents proving that the corporations knew asbestos was deadly but continued to poison their workers and the public for the sake of profits. EWG Action Fund researchers found that less than two per cent of workers exposed to asbestos have asked for help paying medical bills, and that companies who claim to have been driven bankrupt by asbestos suits tell shareholders their bottom lines have not suffered.
The Senate is currently considering a proposal to set up a special fund the bill's proponents claim will take care of all asbestos victims once and for all. But because asbestos-related diseases take up to 50 years to show up, even if everyone who is sick today was helped, the fund would deny justice to hundreds of thousands who have yet to become ill. EWG Action Fund researchers recommend that the federal government ban asbestos immediately and look for a policy solution that will care for all victims - now and in the future.