A cluster of eight counties in East Texas have annual mortality rates from asbestos-triggered disease that are between two and five times higher than the state and national averages, according to a recent analysis by EWG Action Fund.
Bill Awaiting Vote in Congress Would Further Harm State’s Asbestos Victims Washington, D.C. – A cluster of eight counties in East Texas have annual mortality rates from asbestos-triggered disease that are between two and five times higher than the state and national averages, according to a recent analysis by EWG Action Fund. East Texas’s “Asbestos Alley” - a...
Bill Awaiting Vote in Congress Would Further Harm State’s Asbestos Victims
Washington, D.C. – A cluster of eight counties in East Texas have annual mortality rates from asbestos-triggered disease that are between two and five times higher than the state and national averages, according to a recent analysis by EWG Action Fund.
East Texas’s “Asbestos Alley” – a heavily industrial and affluent Gulf Coast area – is dominated by the cities of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur. But that prosperity, which has earned the area the flattering nickname, the “Gold Triangle”, has come with a price.
All eight counties in the Triangle have disproportionately high asbestos death rates compared to both the state and nationwide averages. The annual mortality rate in Orange County, for instance, is 23.9 deaths per 100,000, and neighboring Sabine County’s rate is 22.7, compared to the national asbestos mortality rate of 4.9 per 100,000 people and the statewide rate of 3.3.
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Between 1999 and 2013, more than 14,000 Texans died from asbestos diseases, according to EWG Action Fund’s analyses. Over 1,200 of those fatalities occurred in “Asbestos Alley”, where the shipbuilding, petrochemical and oil and gas industries have used large quantities of asbestos for decades to build heat- and fire-resistant vessels, chemical facilities and buildings.
Despite the heavy toll of asbestos illness, the substance remains legal and is still used in some manufacturing operations. Though it is no longer mined in the U.S., an investigation by the EWG Action Fund found that more than 8 million pounds have been imported into U.S. ports since 2006. Nearly all that deadly imported asbestos landed not far from “Asbestos Alley” in the Port of Houston and the Port of New Orleans.
Despite the high numbers of asbestos victims in Texas, the Congressman who represents Corpus Christi, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), is sponsoring legislation that would benefit the asbestos industry and its insurance companies by delaying or denying victims compensation for their mounting medical expenses and other costs associated with their illnesses, including lost wages.
Farenthold’s bill, known as the FACT Act (H.R. 526), and the companion Senate version (S. 357), would require trusts set up to compensate asbestos victims to produce laborious and expensive reports, depleting dwindling funds and slowing claims processing. The asbestos trusts estimate that complying with the bill would require up to 20,000 more hours per year per trust.
These reports would also force asbestos victims to disclose personal information such as name, employment history, medical condition and partial Social Security numbers on the Internet, placing them at heightened risk of identity theft and other cyber crimes.
The House could vote on the measure as early as this month.
Among the powerful interests behind the FACT ACT are Koch Industries, Honeywell, Nationwide and Allstate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending millions to flood Capitol Hill with lobbyists promoting the bill.
“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 Alex Formuzis, VP for strategic campaigns at EWG Action Fund. “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.”
EWG Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The mission of EWG Action Fund is to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of environmental issues. Donations to EWG Action Fund are not tax-deductible.