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A Breath of Fresh Air From Washington: Senate Passes Historic Asbestos Ban

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Asbestos in the U.S. may be breathing its last gasps, with the Senate's recent passage of the Ban Asbestos in America Act this past week. It now moves on to the House of Representatives, where passage is expected to be imminent. Championed by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for the last six years, this legislation would prohibit the sale of asbestos, launch a public education campaign and invest federal funding in developing effective treatment for Mesothelioma (Meso) and other asbestos-related diseases. With bipartisan support provided by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the bill was first approved unanimously on August 2nd 2007 in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and passed by the full Senate on Thursday, October 4th.

Not coincidentally, The International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, led by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation), took place this past week in Washington, D.C. During the three-day symposium, 120 Meso Foundation advocates from 26 states converged on the Capitol. They met with their senators and congressional representatives to raise awareness about the tragic toll of Meso, to advocate for research investment and to call for passage of the ban legislation. The Symposium also included scientific presentations from expert researchers and clinicians, information and support for Meso patients and family members, and further advocacy to help secure ultimate passage of the bill.

In comments to the group immediately following the legislation's passage in the Senate, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) thanked Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) for their support of the bill, and credited the Meso Foundation advocates for their role in the passage of the legislation.

"I'm very pleased that Senators from both sides of the aisle came together to unanimously support my bill. This is a historic day in the fight to protect Americans. Workers and their families deserve a future free of deadly asbestos exposure, and I'm not stopping until this bill is signed into law," Murray said.

On the House side, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) has introduced the companion legislation as The Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act of 2007 (H.R. 3339).

Former Minnesota Congressman Bruce Vento died in 2000 from Mesothelioma, likely caused by minimal contact with asbestos while working in factories as a young man. Vento represented Minnesota's Fourth District from 1977 to 2000.

At the Meso Foundation's Gala Dinner, following the bill's Senate passage, Congressman Vento's widow, Meso Foundation Board Member Sue Vento, presented the Foundation's annual Bruce F. Vento Hope Builder Award to Congresswoman McCollum. The Congresswoman's remarks were both heartfelt and resolute: "To me, this is more than a bill -- it's a cause. Too many Americans don't know that asbestos exposure remains a problem in this country. So what we need to do is educate -- and then legislate."

Asbestos is so deadly that there is no known safe level of exposure. Even a tiny bit of fiber can cause disease. Studies show that asbestos exposure kills up to 10,000 Americans each year.

Those at risk include everyone from U.S. Navy veterans, workers in shipyards or demolition, brake mechanics, roofers and cement masons, to workers' families and homeowners doing renovations. Exposure to asbestos can cause a variety of cancers, with Mesothelioma being the deadliest. Asbestos- related diseases usually do not manifest until decades later, at which point they develop rapidly. Most Meso patients die within two years of being diagnosed.

Meso Foundation Executive Director Chris Hahn emphasized that the legislation not only bans asbestos, but provides the beginning of a federal investment in medical research for Meso.

"Meso's latency is as long as 50 years, so today millions of Americans who were exposed in the past five decades are at risk. And it is inevitable, given the current levels of asbestos exposure, that Americans will continue to be diagnosed for decades. Their only hope is research now to develop effective treatment. We have accomplished a lot with limited, private funding. It is time for the federal government to partner with us in the search for a cure."

The Meso Foundation is the non-profit collaboration of patients and families, physicians, advocates, and researchers dedicated to eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma. The Foundation promotes development of effective treatments by funding the most promising meso research projects from around the world; offers hope, support and education to patients and families; and advocates in Washington D.C. for federal mesothelioma research funding.

For more information about the Asbestos Ban legislation please contact: Chris Hahn at (805) 252-8955 or Joel Schnur at (212) 489-0600 x204.

For more information about Meso, visit

SOURCE Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
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