Monday, May 05, 2003


As Congress debates what to do about compensation for thousands of victims of asbestos who have still not received compensation, it is useful to remember that the arguments are not really about statistics, or even money, but real people. It's also hopeful to know that we may finally be approaching the day when the use of asbestos will finally be banned in this country.

A Poisonous Legacy

April 29, 2003
By Steve Clark,
Business Report staff
Two sides face off over solutions to 'endless wave' of asbestos litigation
Nobody told Ronald Leleaux the dust he was breathing could hurt him, but it wasn't because nobody knew.

Leleaux, a 68-year-old Coast Guard veteran, worked a variety of industrial jobs from 1954 until 1971, the last six years spent at Baton Rouge's ExxonMobil refinery.

Like countless workers in industrial trades in the decades following World War II, he was routinely exposed to high levels of asbestos while on the job.

Leleaux remembers one of his worst experiences: an 18-month stint working inside a sprawling on-site rubber manufacturing facility dubbed the "finishing building." The corrugated-asbestos roof sheltered massive machines called extruders, which also were covered in asbestos.

"They would be running those big extruders in there, and they also had vibrators, and they had presses," Leleaux says. "That whole building would just tremble and it would be kind of smoky in there. That was nothing but that asbestos. You were breathing all that. We weren't told anything about what it would do."

Scarred and scared

Today, Leleaux, a lifelong nonsmoker, spends most of his day in a La-Z-boy recliner, an oxygen tank by his side, at the Livingston Parish home he shares with Leona Leleaux, his wife of 34 years.

Ronald Leleaux was diagnosed with asbestosis in 1997 after suffering steadily worsening breathing problems for years. Non-malignant yet debilitating, asbestosis is a scarring of the lungs caused by long-term exposure to the fibers from asbestos, a mineral used in thousands of household and industrial applications until being phased out in the 1970s and 1980s.

Eventually Leleaux's breathing got so bad he could sleep only two or three hours a night and some nights awoke in a panic after his breathing stopped altogether.

Leona remembers those nights. She put cold rags on her husband's face, turned on the fan and stayed up with him until he was breathing again. Read more

Panel urges U.S. to ban asbestos imports

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Posted on Sun, May. 04, 2003
WASHINGTON - (KRT) - A blue-ribbon panel funded by the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a surprising recommendation calling on Congress to ban the import, production and distribution of products containing asbestos.
The deadly mineral is no longer mined in the United States, yet the government says about 30 millions pounds of the lethal fibers are being imported into the country each year.

The findings come as a shock to some of those who have long advocated a ban because so many of the panel's members have ties to industries involved with asbestos. That gives the panel's recommendations extraordinary weight, those involved with the asbestos issue say, and could aid efforts already under way in the Senate to outlaw the importation of the deadly fibers. Read more