Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus successfully passed a resolution to designate the first week of April 2014 as "National Asbestos Awareness Week." This marks Baucus' 8th year in a row championing the resolution which he has dedicated in honor to the nearly 300 people in Libby who have died from asbestos-related diseases. Many of them worked at the W.R.Grace mine that shut down in 1990.
"With the people of Libby in mind, I am honored to introduce the Asbestos Awareness Week resolution. Although we can't right the tragic wrong that took place in Libby, Asbestos Awareness Week makes sure folks have the resources and tools they need to keep the tragedy of Libby from happening again," said Baucus, who was instrumental in urging the EPA to declare its first ever public health emergency in Libby, Montana.
National Asbestos Awareness Week is dedicated to raising public awareness about the prevalence of asbestos-related disease and the dangers of asbestos exposure. Baucus is an original sponsor of the bill which he first introduced in 2005. Senator Jon Tester is also a co-sponsor.
"We must do everything we can to help folks in Libby while raising awareness and preventing a similar tragedy in the future," Tester said. "Max's fight for Libby is a defining part of his legacy, and I will continue to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos to make Montana a safe, healthy place to live and work."
Additional background on Baucus' longstanding efforts in Libby:
Since news reports first linked widespread deaths and illness to exposure to deadly asbestos fibers at the defunct W.R Grace and Co. mine, Baucus has visited Libby more than 20 times, secured millions for healthcare and cleanup, brought numerous White House cabinet secretaries to the town, helped save the CARD clinic, and has dogged the EPA to keep cleanup efforts moving forward.
Baucus has been a long-time champion of asbestos awareness in his efforts to declare the mining tragedy in Lincoln County a public health emergency and make sure folks there have access to the clean-up tools they need. Baucus also included three provisions in the Affordable Care Act to ensure asbestos victims in Libby have access to the health care they are entitled to as residents of a public disaster emergency site:
In Spring 2010, as part of Baucus' provisions, victims of asbestos exposure in Lincoln County began getting care under Medicare.
In March 2011, Baucus announced the application process was open for the screening-grant awarded to CARD today.
In June 2011, Baucus announced additional benefits for Libby asbestos victims, such as home care services and special medical equipment not normally covered under Medicare.