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Fighting Cancer: Historic Anti-Asbestos Legislation Moving Forward With Support of Meso Foundation

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., May 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Six years ago, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) first introduced her proposed legislation to ban asbestos and invest federal funding in the research critically needed to develop effective treatments for the vicious cancer, mesothelioma, and other asbestos related diseases. Since 2002, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) has worked closely with Senator Murray to stop the death and suffering and to get this life-saving legislation passed. On October 4th, 2007, 120 Meso Foundation volunteer advocates from all over the country descended on Capitol Hill, meeting with their Senators, and urging support for the legislation. By the end of that very day, the Senate unanimously passed it.

On the House side, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced the companion legislation as The Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act of 2007 (H.R. 3339). The Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House's Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C Committee) has taken the lead on the legislation. In its draft, known as the Committee Print, the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee has carried forward Senator Murray's work on the ban, eliminating an exception for asbestos present at 1% or less by weight, making the ban a matter of federal statute rather than EPA regulation, and adding enforcement provisions.

The critically needed medical research funding provisions from Senator Murray's and Congresswoman McCollum's legislation have not yet been added to the Committee Print. The Meso Foundation has been working with the E&C Committee's Health Subcommittee to draft these provisions.

The Meso Foundation issued a statement today saying,

"We commend the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the

Energy and Commerce Committee for following up on the historic leadership

of Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman Betty McCollum and taking up the

issue of carcinogenic asbestos. We support the strongest possible ban on

asbestos and applaud the Sub-committee for their work in drafting the

Committee Print.

For the sake of all those already exposed, those now sick, and those who

will be exposed in the future to asbestos already in place, we call on the

Health Subcommittee to follow Senator Murray and Congresswoman McCollum in

recognizing the necessity of a robust asbestos disease research program,

and to adopt the research funding provisions included in their

legislation. Once these provisions have been added to the existing

Committee Print, we call on the House of Representatives to pass this

legislation as quickly as possible so that it can be conferenced with the

Senate-passed legislation championed by Senator Murray, and a bill can be

presented to the President for signature."

Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) and the staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a briefing session on Monday, May 19th to educate the key staff of other House members on the critical need for this legislation. Meso Foundation Medical Liaison Mary Hesdorffer, a nurse practitioner with twelve years' experience treating meso patients and designing clinical trials, was one of the key speakers. Based on her professional experience with hundreds of meso patients, Mary spoke on why the Meso Foundation supports the Committee Print and the House's effort to pass the strongest ban possible. She also explained why the research funding provisions are so critically important for the millions who were exposed in the past sixty years - and all those who will continue to be exposed to the asbestos already pervasive in our environment.

The Meso Foundation has also issued an "Action Alert" urging all 15,000 of its constituents to call on their House Representative this week to support prompt passage in the House of the asbestos ban and research funding provisions. This year, as part of its annual Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, the Meso Foundation will be holding another Advocacy Day, on June 26. "We are again bringing our army of advocates -- doctors, researchers, and most importantly, families directly impacted by this deadly cancer -- to D.C. to tell their stories. We are going to make sure the House and the President complete the life-saving work started by Senator Murray," said Chris Hahn, Meso Foundation Executive Director.

Asbestos is so deadly that there is no known safe level of exposure. Even a tiny bit of fiber can cause mesothelioma. Approximately 3000 Americans are dying each year from the cancer, the result of exposures that occurred ten to sixty years ago. 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 even those who lived, worked or went to school in contaminated buildings. Most meso patients die within two years of diagnosis.

"We started this effort with Senator Murray six years ago," says Hahn. "Since then, 3,000 wonderful people in the U.S. have died every year because of the lack of effective medical treatments for meso. We don't want another day to go by without the research funding needed to develop those treatments."

The Meso Foundation is a not-for-profit collaboration of patients and families, physicians, advocates and researchers dedicated to eradicating the life-ending and vicious effects of mesothelioma. The Foundation spurs meso research with seed-money grant funding, over $5 million to date. The Foundation also provides patients and families with information on mesothelioma treatments, clinical trials and medical referrals through its full-time mesothelioma nurse practitioner and its website, The Meso Foundation also hosts the annual Symposium to educate patients and families on the latest advances in meso research and treatment. This year, the Symposium will be held in Washington, DC on June 26-28.

SOURCE The Meso Foundation
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