Analysis Shows Skyrocketing Asbestos-Related Deaths In East Texas

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

A recent analysis by the EWG Action Fund reveals the rate for asbestos-related deaths in eight counties of East Texas are two to five times higher than the state and national averages.

This area of East Texas has been dubbed as “Asbestos Alley” with its heavy industry. It’s also a well-off area in the Gulf Coast area with Beaumont, Orange, and Port Arthur giving it the other name of the “Gold Triangle.”

Orange County’s annual mortality rate from asbestos is 23.9 deaths per 100,000 and Sabine County has 22.7, whereas the national rate is 4.9 deaths per 100,000 people and the state of Texas’ rate is 3.3.

In the 14 years from 1999 to 2013, over 14,000 people in Texas died from asbestos-related diseases. 1,200 of them happened in “Asbestos Alley” with its shipbuilding, petrochemical, and oil and gas prominence. These industries are known to use mass amounts of asbestos for heat- and fire-resistant vessel manufacturing, chemical facilities, and other structures.

Orange is a prime example, known as the “Gateway City;” a deep-water port on the west bank of the Sabine River, separating Texas and Louisiana. It was the center of Texas’ lumber industry at the end of the 19th century with 17 sawmills. Then WWI and WWII contributed to its shipbuilding industry. In 1949, 140 U.S. Navy ships were maintained there.

Petrochemicals popped up post-war along with steel, rubber products, paper products, and plastics. Asbestos was used extensively in all of these industries’ manufacturing processes, so many of the workers were exposed to asbestos and health problems, such as mesothelioma cancer, have resulted.

Yet, over 8 million pounds of asbestos have been imported into America since 2006. Most of it went to the Port of Houston and the Port of New Orleans nearby “Asbestos Alley” for its (still) legal use in manufacturing.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) is the representing Congressman who is in opposition to laws that might help lower these annual mortality rates from asbestos. Instead, he’s sponsoring bills that will benefit asbestos and insurance companies by halting or getting rid of compensation to victims. This hurts support of patients’ massive medical costs and lost incomes from being sick and unable to work.

The House of Representatives could vote on Farenthold’s FACT Act as early as this month. The bill’s biggest backers are Koch Industries, Honeywell, Nationwide, and Allstate.

“Rep. Farenthold and the corporations backing his bill are working to let the asbestos industry escape responsibility for knowingly exposing these sick and dying Americans to this lethal substance,” said the VP for Strategic Campaigns at the EWG Action Fund, Alex Formuzis. “Any effort that would deny justice to victims while putting them at heightened risk of identity theft should be shunned by all Texans and strongly opposed by their representatives in Congress, too.”