(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), author of the Ban Asbestos in America Act, today called on President Bush to support her ban and protect all Americans from the risk of asbestos related disease. While Bush called for reform in the way asbestos claims are handled, he failed to support an end to the cause of this deadly problem.
"I am disappointed that President Bush today addressed the issue of asbestos litigation reform while ignoring the needs of current and future victims of asbestos disease. Any legislation to fix the litigation crisis must be balanced in its protections for present and future asbestos victims. Protecting these people is at least as important as protecting companies from liability.
"I am deeply troubled that the President spoke of ending liability for companies that have used asbestos without addressing the need to ban this deadly substance. The President can focus all he wants on limiting victims once they're sick, but I believe we must stop people from being victimized by asbestos in the first place.
"The current asbestos liability crisis is not just a function of a high number of lawsuits. It is also a function of the deadly nature of asbestos and the long latency period for asbestos disease - which can be up to 40 years.
"In Washington state alone, thousands of workers and their families have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos at home and on the job - many while serving in the defense of our nation. King County, Washington state's largest county, has the fourth-highest number of asbestos-related deaths in the nation. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. We know that asbestos kills. While more than 30 other countries have protected their citizens by banning asbestos, the United States still has not. Until we take the steps to ban this deadly substance, we will continue to put innocent lives at risk.
"This is why the President must work to truly protect Americans and put an end to future lawsuits by supporting my Ban Asbestos in America Act to stop the importation and use of asbestos in the United States.
"Unfortunately, the Administration has dragged its feet and continues to put Americans at risk by not adequately informing them of the danger lurking all around and above them. Not only has this Administration failed to protect American citizens by banning this known carcinogen in thousands of household products, but they haven't fulfilled the obligation to educate the public about the dangers of asbestos exposure. In early 2003, I pressured the EPA to finally launch a public awareness campaign informing American workers and homeowners of the risk that lurks in their attics, car breaks, floor tiles, and even their hair dryers. There is still much work to be done.
"The President let down victims today by failing to put a premium on establishing fair and appropriate national medical criteria to adequately compensate victims with severe injuries in an efficient manner. A lack of standards will only result in more lawsuits, backlogs and further injustice to asbestos victims. We need a real solution that gives current and future victims the help they need without forcing companies into bankruptcy.
"As the President focuses on limiting the rights of asbestos victims, he has an obligation to prevent future victims by banning asbestos once and for all."
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