ADAO Calls on Congress After Revelations of Asbestos Exposure

A detailed investigative report by ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to investigating abuse of power, revealed how chemical giants have been lying about worker safety at their facilities. The report details decades of chemical company failures to provide enough protection for workers at Chlor-alkali plants, including a longtime contract janitor who got exposed to asbestos while pregnant. According to the janitor who worked at the Olin Corp. chemical plant, she scraped dry asbestos off the locker room floor. She also threw away protective suits, which were sometimes contaminated with asbestos. All this she did without any protective gear. According to the janitor, the company never informed workers about the dangers of asbestos.

For many years, workers across the U.S. did not discuss the dangers they were exposed to in asbestos-dependent chlorine plants. But after ProPublica revealed unsafe practices at a plant in Niagara Falls, New York, workers across America who worked at other chlorine plants voiced their concern about how the dangerous material was handled at their workplaces. Former lab analysts at a Texas plant revealed that workers there raised issues about potential asbestos exposures with safety managers in 2018. A contract pipe fitter who worked at the Olin Corp revealed that asbestos would fly and land everywhere. The pipe fitter did not experience lung problems, but his sister did. The sister worked various jobs in the company and spent time in places where workers handled asbestos. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away in 2017 at 64.

In response to ProPublica’s report, Linda Reinstein, the President and Co-Founder of the Asbestos Disease and Awareness Organization (ADAO), a nonprofit dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure, issued a statement calling on Congress to enact a U.S. ban on asbestos. According to Linda, a U.S. ban on asbestos is decades overdue, and this latest report by ProPublica is another example of unnecessary exposure, diseases, and death. ADAO calls on Congress to pass the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (ARBAN).

Asbestos has been linked to various diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Until asbestos was discovered to be a carcinogen, it was widely used in many industrial and high-heat settings. Even though this dangerous substance is no longer mined in the U.S. and its use has significantly reduced, contrary to what some people think, asbestos is not banned. It is not against the law to import and use asbestos in small amounts. But even in small quantities, asbestos can still be deadly.

Every year, over 40,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma, a form of cancer that develops in the thin layer covering most internal organs, claims the lives of approximately 2,600 Americans yearly. According to ADAO, ProPublica’s story is just one of many stories detailing unnecessary suffering and illness. The story is a reminder as to why a U.S. asbestos ban is necessary. Linda Reinstein believes that Congress knows what it must do and insists it must act soon.

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