AMBLER, PA. – The chunks of crumbled concrete looked suspiciously fuzzy.
That’s what Linda Reinstein thought on one June day last year as she toured the Superfund sites and abandoned asbestos factories in this small Pennsylvania borough with her friend and fellow mesothelioma widow Marilyn Amento. Based on her 12 years’ experience with asbestos, Reinstein thought the pieces of crumbled concrete looked “just off enough” to be sent to a lab for testing.
For more than a decade, Paul Zygielbaum had beaten the odds, but now he was certain his time was up. He’d survived four surgeries and three chemotherapy regimens since being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2004, but by last summer his tumors had spread to his chest and grown massively, he had difficulty breathing and he had lost a significant amount of weight.
Just days before Memorial Day, the U.S. Senate seemed poised to pass a long-overdue, sweeping overhaul of the decades-old, ineffective law governing toxic substances, including asbestos. After all, the legislation had unusual bipartisan support and had just passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 403-12. It also was being supported by such disparate groups as the Environmental Defense Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Chemistry Council. In May, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) also offered their support after significant changes were made to the bill to make asbestos a priority.
If anyone is qualified to talk why asbestos should be banned in the United States, it’s retired aerospace engineer and businessman Paul Zygielbaum. His life, work, and medical history encompass America’s deadly legacy of asbestos – and with asbestos imports and use continuing in the United States to this day, his story is a cautionary tale for future generations.
For more than three decades, Gayla Benefield has been at the center of tragic events unfolding in Libby, Montana. Three generations of her family have died or become sick from asbestos-related diseases traced to a mine operated by W. R. Grace.
More than 50 nations have banned asbestos over the past three decades, but that fact provides little comfort to Sharad Vittnal Sawant of Mumbai, India. He works in a factory that uses chrysotile asbestos and lives in a nation that is one of the world’s largest importers and consumers of asbestos. Hundreds of his fellow workers at the factory have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases – and both Sawant and his wife have asbestosis.
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1927, which included the FACT Act, by a vote of 211-188. The vote came after a four-hour debate on the House floor and was mainly along party lines.
On April 18, 2012, then-Congressman Ben Quayle introduced legislation that he said was necessary to root out fraud by people seeking compensation for asbestos-related diseases leaving more money for victims with genuine claims.