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New Analysis Shows Growing Number of Asbestos Related Deaths in Texas

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, February 14, 2005

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 — At least 259 Texans died in 2002 from just two forms of asbestos disease, according to a new report on asbestos mortality by the Washington, DC-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund. More than one third of the deaths in 2002 (103) were in just three metropolitan areas: Houston with 44, Beaumont with 34, and Dallas with 25.

The report, "A Slow Death in Texas," is based on an analysis of new data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the federal government's Centers for Disease Control. The data show that asbestos mortality in Texas is increasing, with a tripling of reported deaths since 1989. This increase follows a national trend, where deaths from asbestos diseases nationwide are not expected to peak until sometime between 2015 and 2020.

From 1979 through 2002, at least 2,910 Texans died from just two forms of asbestos disease, placing Texas fifth in the nation for asbestos mortality during that time.

The study is released as the Texas legislature is poised to consider legislation limiting the ability of the sick or dying to get their medical bills covered by the asbestos companies.

"Asbestos is first and foremost a public health issue," said EWG Action Fund Senior Vice President Richard Wiles. "Any legislation has to provide complete medical and financial care to everyone injured or killed by asbestos."

The report also comes in the wake of criminal indictments against notorious asbestos producer, W.R. Grace. The indictment, handed down by a Montana grand jury on February 7, 2005, charges Grace with poisoning the community of Libby, Montana with asbestos dust and concealing critical studies from the federal government.

The impact of the alleged criminal behavior by W.R. Grace extends well into Texas. EWG Action Fund has calculated that at least 670,000 tons of W.R. Grace asbestos from Montana was shipped to Texas between 1963 and 1992. Factories in Dallas and Houston were the Lone Star State's largest recipients of vermiculite from the Libby, Montana mines.

EWG Action Fund released a report in 2004, Asbestos: Think Again. That report, along with today's Texas-specific update, is available at http://www.ewg.org.