Murray Reaction Mixed to Judiciary Committee Passage of Asbestos Liability Bill

Jul 15 2003

Applauds the ban, but concerned over lack of national victims registry, research funding

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Murray (D-Wash.) praised the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing an improved version of S. 1125, “The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act,” which now requires asbestos to be banned within two years.

The bill, which must now be considered by the full Senate, is designed to compensate victims of asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos lawsuits. But until Senator Murray raised the issue, the legislation would not have prevented the deadly substance from being put into consumer products. In 2001, the U.S. consumed 13,000 metric tons of asbestos.

During the last month, Murray has worked behind the scenes to add an asbestos ban to the underlying bill. On Thursday, July 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the compensation bill – with the asbestos ban – by a vote of 10-8.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has done the right thing by finally proposing a ban on asbestos,” Senator Murray said. “We need to protect Americans from asbestos, but as long as asbestos remains legal, people will continue to get sick. This legislation is a testament to the terrible legacy of disease and death that asbestos has wrought for decades. I am glad the Committee heeded my call for an asbestos ban in S. 1125, and I am especially grateful for the support from Senators Feinstein, Kohl and Leahy.”

Murray introduced the “Ban Asbestos in America Act” last year. Her proposal not only called for an asbestos ban, but would authorize other remedies to combat asbestos-related disease. The Murray legislation required a national mesothelioma registry to help public health officials identify and track affected communities; it increased research for asbestos-related diseases; and it required a National Academy of Sciences study on the health effects of asbestos.

But while Murray was pleased that the asbestos ban was included in the asbestos compensation bill, she was disappointed that other elements of her “Ban Asbestos in America Act” (S. 1115) were ignored by the Judiciary Committee.

Senator Murray said, “I will continue to push for the other important provisions to address the asbestos threat that were left out of the Judiciary Committee’s bill when the legislation comes to the Senate floor. It is absolutely critical to create a national mesothelioma registry so we can see national trends and identify hot spots. And we owe it to present and future mesothelioma victims and their families to improve treatments for the disease.”

Murray also addressed the prospects for passage of the asbestos compensation bill.

“While I am pleased by the asbestos ban, I agree with members of the Judiciary Committee from both sides of the aisle who have expressed concerns about S. 1125,” said Murray. “I hope Senators Hatch, Leahy and others will continue to negotiate on the contentious issue of awards values for asbestos victims. We need to get to a place where at least 60 Senators can support this bill, and we’re not there yet.”