The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released a study finding mortality rates linked to diseases associated with asbestos exposure in eight East Texas counties to be four times the U.S. average, and terming the state’s heavily industrialized Gulf Coast region as “Asbestos Alley.”
The EWG release, based on a study by the mesothelioma law firm Baron & Budd, found the highest disease-related death rates in Orange County — almost 24 deaths per 100,000 individuals — and in Sabine County, with a mortality rate of nearly 23 per 100,000 people. The national mortality rate is 4.9 per 100,000, and the overall Texas rate is 3.3 per 100,000.
By county, EWG reported the following mortality rates due to asbestos exposure: Orange – 23.9, Sabine – 22.7, Jasper – 16.8, Trinity – 16.3, Jefferson – 14.8, Newton – 13.2, Hardin – 12.8, and Polk – 11.8.
Asbestos is legal in the U.S., according to the EWG report, and nearly 8 million pounds of asbestos has been imported into the country since 2006.
The report also notes that a Republican congressman from Texas, Rep. Blake Farenthold, has sponsored legislation that would make it more difficult for asbestos victims to obtain legal compensation for disease-related medical costs. The bill, called FACT (Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency) Act, would require plaintiffs to complete numerous and costly reports. If signed into law, the act could both slow claims processing and dissuade people from pursuing legal action.
“We are incredulous that Rep. Farenthold would sponsor such a terrible piece of legislation, especially since he is no doubt aware of the toll asbestos is taking — basically in his own backyard,” said Russell Budd, president and managing shareholder of Baron & Budd, in news release. “We strongly urge citizens to make their displeasure with the FACT Act known by contacting their State Representatives and Senators.”
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rocks and soil. Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by disturbing asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, and home or commercial building or maintenance, repair, and remodeling. In general, exposure occurs when asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged in some way, releasing particles and fibers into the air.
Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung disease and is the cause of mesothelioma development, a rare aggressive tumor that forms on the thin protective tissues that cover the lungs and abdomen. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects.