LIBBY – Among a lengthy list of a U.S. Senate resolution’s “whereases,” Libby’s long battle with asbestos has taken a special place.
The Senate late last week unanimously passed a resolution – which specifically mentions Libby – designating the first week of April as National Asbestos Awareness Week.
The resolution, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and co-sponsored by Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, also calls on the surgeon general to “warn and educate people about the public health issue of asbestos exposure, which may be hazardous to their health.”
Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, calls asbestos one of history’s largest man-made disasters.
“Most Americans can’t identify asbestos or manage the risk during associated repairs, renovation, construction or disasters,” Reinstein said. “Each year, 10,000 Americans die from preventable asbestos-caused diseases.”
Hundreds have died in Libby, where widespread death and illness was linked to asbestos exposure at the now-shuttered W.R. Grace and Co. mine.
Senate Resolution 125 begins, “Whereas dangerous asbestos fibers are invisible and cannot be smelled or tasted,” and “Whereas asbestos fibers can cause cancer such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other health problems.”
The 15th “whereas” takes note of Libby.
It reads, “Whereas people in the small community of Libby, Montana, suffer from asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, at a significantly higher rate than people in the United States as a whole.”
The resolution was sponsored by a dozen Democrats, including Tester, and three Republicans, including Daines.
“The fatal effects of asbestos have forever changed the community of Libby,” Tester said. “This resolution helps raise awareness about the dangers and prevention efforts associated with this silent killer.”
“Too many Libby families have suffered from the deadly effects of asbestos exposure,” Daines said. “National Asbestos Awareness Week will help save lives by raising awareness and in turn reduce exposure to this fatal carcinogen.”
Both senators indicated they would work to continue efforts to remove asbestos contamination in the Lincoln County town.