Despite High Asbestos Death Rate, Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push Bill to Deny Justice for Victims
It is hard to find a place in the United States that's seen more people die from asbestos exposure than Pennsylvania and, in particular, Allegheny County.
Analysis: Asbestos Deaths in Pa., Allegheny County Among Highest in the Country WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania has one of the highest death rates from asbestos-triggered disease in the nation. But some state lawmakers are pushing a bill that would make it much harder, if not impossible, for asbestos victims and their families to receive fair compensation for their suffering....
Analysis: Asbestos Deaths in Pa., Allegheny County Among Highest in the Country
WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania has one of the highest death rates from asbestos-triggered disease in the nation. But some state lawmakers are pushing a bill that would make it much harder, if not impossible, for asbestos victims and their families to receive fair compensation for their suffering.
Nationwide, the annual mortality rate from diseases caused by asbestos exposure is 4.9 deaths per 100,000 people. In Pennsylvania, it’s 7.5 deaths per 100,000, and 8.5 per 100,000 in Allegheny County specifically. Between 1999 and 2013, more than 14,200 Pennsylvanians died of asbestos-triggered diseases, according to an analysis by EWG Action Fund.
Yet in January, state Rep. Warren Kampf, a Republican whose district includes parts of Chester and Montgomery counties, introduced a bill that would impose numerous unnecessary hurdles for victims seeking compensation, and grant enormous power to corporations responsible for asbestos exposure. The bill – H.B. 238, the so-called FACT Act – is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
“It is hard to find a place in the United States that’s seen more people die from asbestos exposure than Pennsylvania and, in particular, Allegheny County,” said Alex Formuzis, director of EWG Action Fund’s Asbestos Nation campaign. “Asbestos kills almost 1,000 Pennsylvanians every year. HB 238 would see many victims die before their day in court.”
The use of asbestos has declined sharply since its health risks became clear in the late 1970s, but it remains legal and is still used by some industries. Allegheny County’s history as a center for steel production likely accounts for the elevated mortality numbers. Military service members, especially those in the Navy, were heavily exposed to asbestos for decades through its use in ships.
Kampf’s bill is similar to legislation in a dozen states that was modeled by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which drafts and distributes bills promoting a right-wing corporate agenda. ALEC is heavily funded by a number of major asbestos companies, including Koch Industries, Honeywell and 3M, and is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Specifically, H.B. 238 would:
- Allow asbestos defendant companies the authority to delay litigation, which would see many victims succumb to their illnesses before their day in court; and
- Severely revise time-honored tort law to let asbestos corporations responsible for poisoning the plaintiffs off the hook.
“This bill is designed with one goal in mind: run out the clock on asbestos victims in Pennsylvania so they die before their cases even make it to court,” said Formuzis. “By supporting this bill, lawmakers in Harrisburg are standing with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the asbestos industry – not with sick and dying Pennsylvanians, including many veterans.”
Contact: Alex Formuzis with EWG Action Fund 202.667.6982 or email@example.com
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.