Thirty-six years is a long time. When Max Baucus first ran for the U.S. Senate, few people had ever heard of mesothelioma. People had heard of asbestos, but they thought of it as a useful product, and many people lived in home with asbestos floor and ceiling tiles, covered with asbestos shingles, the interior walls were covered with drywall or plaster made with asbestos fibers, with electrical wiring covered with asbestos insulation and furnace ducts wrapped with asbestos fabric. They even took pans from the oven with asbestos potholders.
It was seen as a means of improving safety, because of its insulating and fireproofing qualities. But lurking in that seemingly innocent product lurked an insidious devil. Mineral fibers so thin and light they could become airborne. Inhaled in dust, they lodged deep in the lungs first causing asbestosis, and in many cases, developing into the deadly lung cancer mesothelioma.
In 1980, when Senator Baucus was still in his first term, the Consumer Products Safety Commission first asked companies that made household products to disclose where they used asbestos. The New York Times reported that first lawsuit involving asbestos was from Texas in 1973, and that 8,000 cases had been filed.
Senator Baucus has long been an advocate for the rights of those who suffered from the ill effects of asbestos. Many of his own constituents, in Libby, MT, contracted mesothelioma and died because of corporate indifference. He was “especially proud” of the help he was able to secure for those residents.
We hope there are those who will continue the battle Senator Baucus has fought so long. There is still work to be done to ban asbestos in the United States and prevent future generations from having to witnessing the suffering of someone dying of mesothelioma.
Source: Asbestos.com, “Mesothelioma Advocate Max Baucus Leaving U.S. Senate,” Tim Povtak, April 24, 2013