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Asbestos No More: Historic Asbestos Ban Passage Imminent

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Asbestos in the U.S. may be breathing its last gasps, as the Senate today passed the Ban Asbestos in America Act. Passage in the House is expected to be imminent. Championed by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for the past six years, this legislation would finally ban asbestos, invest federal funding in development of effective treatment for asbestos' most deadly cancer, mesothelioma (meso), and other asbestos-related diseases, and launch a public education campaign. With bipartisan support provided by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), on August 2, and passed by the full Senate late this afternoon.

Not coincidentally, The International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, sponsored by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation), began today in Washington, D.C. One hundred and twenty Meso Foundation advocates from 26 states converged on the Capitol to meet individually with their Senators and Congressional representatives, educate them about the tragic toll of meso, urge them to finally ban asbestos, and most importantly ask Congress to invest the federal research funding necessary to develop effective treatments for meso. The advocates included patients, family members, individuals who had lost a loved one to meso, and a handful of expert meso researchers and clinicians. In comments to the group immediately following the legislation's passage in the Senate, Senator Murray thanked the Meso Foundation for its work, and credited the advocates for their key role in the passage of this historic legislation.

"Today marks the first time this constituency is on the steps of Capitol Hill as an entire community," said Chris Hahn, Executive Director of The Meso Foundation. "We believe the human tragedy of mesothelioma must be addressed urgently."

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 U.S. military personnel, shipyard workers, brake mechanics, roofers, cement workers, demolition workers, homeowners doing renovations, spouses and children of workers...the list goes on and on. Exposure to asbestos can cause a variety of cancers, the most deadly being mesothelioma. Asbestos diseases usually do not manifest themselves until decades after a person is exposed to asbestos fibers, but then the diseases develop rapidly. Most patients with mesothelioma die within two years of being diagnosed.

"Asbestos is deadly, it's devastating families and communities, and every day that we wait to ban it, we're sentencing more Americans to an early and avoidable death," explains Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

The Symposium continues this evening, as more than 200 participants are expected to join in a moving Tribute Ceremony and Candlelight Vigil on the West Lawn at the Steps of the Capitol, featuring symposium panelists and participants, including Susan Vento, whose late husband, Congressman Bruce Vento (D-MN), lost the battle against pleural mesothelioma seven years ago.

Friday, October 5th and Saturday, October 6th, the Symposium continues in the Westin City Center, 1400 M. Street, NW, in Washington, D.C., with meso scientific presentations, information and support for meso patients and family members, and further advocacy to help secure ultimate passage of the bill.

On the House side, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) has introduced the Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act of 2007 (H.R. 3339), to ban asbestos in the United States and expand prevention, research, and treatment for asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma.

"It's long past time that our country banned asbestos," McCollum said. "After decades of widespread and unknowing exposure to this deadly substance, Americans should be able to rest assured that they are no longer at risk of having their lives cut short by asbestos exposure."

Meso Foundation Executive Director Chris Hahn explains the importance of the fact that the legislation not only bans asbestos but provides the beginnings of an 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 today's current levels of asbestos exposure, that death from mesothelioma will continue for decades. So alongside the ban, there needs to be much greater funding for research and treatment of this aggressive disease."

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.

"Bruce would be so proud to know that his friend and successor is leading the way in the House for passage of a bill that will ban asbestos, increase public awareness of the very real risks related to asbestos and fund critically needed medical research for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases," said Sue Vento, wife of the late Congressman. "Rep. McCollum's legislation is definitely needed and is much appreciated by those who have experienced the devastation of mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos."

The International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma will feature medical panelists and speakers: Hon. Patty Murray, United States Senator; Hon. Betty McCollum, United States Congresswoman; Chris Hahn, Executive Director, Meso Foundation; Susan Vento, Board of Directors, Meso Foundation; Mary Beth Buchholz, Vice President, Government Affairs, BatesNeimand; Courtney Broaddus, MD, University of California, San Francisco; Harvey Pass, MD, New York University Comprehensive Cancer Center; Lee Krug, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; John Chabot, MD, Columbia University Medical Center; Hedy Kindler, MD, University of Chicago; Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Medical Liaison, Meso Foundation; Daniel Sterman, MD, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center; Raffit Hassan, MD, National Cancer Institute.

For more information or to arrange interviews with International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma participants, please contact Chris Hahn at (805) 252-8955 or Paul Marcone at (571) 338-2346 or

Speakers will be available for photo ops and interviews.

Program overview can be found at:


Christopher E. Hahn Paul Marcone

cell: (805) 252-8955 cell: (571) 338-2346

SOURCE Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
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