rail worker

Not much happens in the United States Senate unanimously. But one thing even every senator can agree on is that asbestos is a health hazard worthy of its own week of awareness. This week, April 1-7, is National Asbestos Awareness week. The U.S. Senate has unanimously resolved to make it so.

In a Senate Resolution sponsored by Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steven Daines, the U.S. Senate has designated this week to bring attention to the problems created by asbestos in Montana and throughout the nation. Montana is the site of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site and has been a hotbed of asbestos-related disease since the early 2000s. In 2009, the EPA declared a Public Health Emergency in Libby to provide federal funds to fight the epidemic of asbestos-related disease seen there as a result of the superfund site.

This week’s Senate Resolution is a primer on the hazards of asbestos. The Senate has agreed that “asbestos fibers are invisible and cannot be smelled or tasted” and that “the inhalation of airborne asbestos fibers can cause significant damage.” The Senate further agreed that “asbestos fibers can cause cancer,” and asbestos-related diseases “can take between 10 and 50 years to present themselves.”

The Senate recognized that “thousands of people in the United States have died from asbestos-related diseases, and thousands more die every year from those diseases.” Moreover, “thousands of workers in the United States face significant asbestos exposure, which has been a cause of occupational cancer.”

In an effort to raise awareness of the “prevalence of asbestos-related diseases and the dangers of asbestos exposure,” the Senate has designated the first week of April as

‘‘National Asbestos Awareness Week’’ and urged the “the Surgeon General to warn and educate people about the public health issue of asbestos exposure, which may be hazardous to their health.“ It is hoped that by raising awareness of asbestos and its hazards through public education and information the progress made in the reducing the use of asbestos and thereby reducing asbestos-related disease, will continue.