Study: Asbestos Death Rate in Charleston Double State and National Average
Charleston County’s annual asbestos mortality rate is 8.8 deaths out of every 100,000, compared to 4.3 for South Carolina and 4.9 nationwide.
Bill Before State Legislature Would Further Harm Asbestos Victims, Families Washington, D.C. (March 23, 2016) –Charleston County’s annual asbestos mortality rate is 8.8 deaths out of every 100,000, compared to 4.3 for South Carolina and 4.9 nationwide, according a new analysis by researchers with Environmental Working Group Action Fund. The group estimates roughly 45...
Bill Before State Legislature Would Further Harm Asbestos Victims, Families
Washington, D.C. (March 23, 2016) –Charleston County’s annual asbestos mortality rate is 8.8 deaths out of every 100,000, compared to 4.3 for South Carolina and 4.9 nationwide, according a new analysis by researchers with Environmental Working Group Action Fund.
The group estimates roughly 450 residents of the county died from asbestos-triggered diseases between 1999-2013. More than 2,800 residents of the state have succumbed from asbestos illnesses, including mesothelioma (503); asbestosis (372); and asbestos-related non-mesothelioma lung cancer (2,012), over the same period.
The only county with a higher death rate is Kershaw County, home to Columbia, S.C., with 12 out of every 100,000 deaths caused from asbestos exposure.
The analysis combines federal records of deaths from mesothelioma and asbestosis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with a formula developed by international cancer researchers with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) for estimating lung cancer deaths from asbestos.
Asbestos was once widely used in the shipyards in and around Charleston, which is likely one the reasons for the far higher death rate in the area. Those who worked in the shipyards and served in the Navy were often regularly exposed to the deadly dust, which was used in ships due to its unique heat-and-fire-resistant properties.
The Charleston Naval Shipyard, which operated between 1901 and 1996, employed tens of thousands of area residents. It remains a major shipbuilding and repair hub and is home to one of the largest commercial shipyards on the East Coast.
Other regions of the country that had major shipbuilding operations, including Baltimore, Md., Philadelphia, Pa., Norfolk, Va., and Portsmouth, NH, also have asbestos mortality rates far higher than both their state and national averages.
Other industries that historically relied on asbestos and have been major employers in the Charleston area include aerospace and defense, textiles and automobile and rail manufacturing operations.
“Many people believe asbestos was banned and no longer presents a risk, but that is simply not the case,” said Sonya Lunder, a senior research analyst with EWG Action Fund. “Asbestos remains legal and continues to be used by some industries. And any homes, schools or other buildings built before the early 1980s almost certainly contain materials made with the deadly fiber.”
Nationwide, up to 15,000 Americans die annually from asbestos-caused diseases, even though the amount of asbestos used in manufacturing has significantly declined since the mid-1970s.
Unfortunately for those South Carolinians currently suffering from asbestos disease and those who will fall ill in the future, legislation before the state senate would erect a series of legal roadblocks to victims’ efforts to obtain compensation from the companies responsible for their illnesses.
The legislation, S. 281 sponsored by Sen. Shane Massey (R-Dist. 25) would:
- Force asbestos victims and their attorneys to disclose confidential settlement agreements;
- Drastically alter procedural rules for asbestos cases to allow courts to retain jurisdiction after a case has concluded for the sole purpose of reducing awards to victims; and
- Allow defendant corporations to delay trial repeatedly, such that many victims may die before their day in court.
Patients with mesothelioma – a cancer only caused from asbestos exposure – usually die within months after diagnosis.
“This is an effort by asbestos corporations, their lawyers and insurance companies to delay and deny compensation to victims and their families,” said Alex Formuzis with EWG Action Fund. “If this bill is allowed to pass, current and future residents of South Carolina sick and dying from asbestos disease could see their access to justice categorically denied.”
Sen. Massey’s bill is built off model legislation first introduced by the industry-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. The organization crafts legislative language designed to protect the profit of corporations, often at the expense of individuals and communities that have been harmed.
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.