On World Cancer Day, U.S. House of Representatives Holds Hearing on Bill That Violates Asbestos Cancer Victims’ Privacy

Yesterday was World Cancer Day, which was established in 2008 with the primary goal of significantly reducing illness and death caused by cancer by 2020. Several Members of Congress recognized World Cancer Day, but certain members of the House Judiciary Committee chose to mark the occasion by holding a hearing on a bill that insults and injures victims of cancer caused by asbestos. 

The bill at issue is called the “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015” (H.R. 526). It was crafted by lobbyists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of a campaign to help the asbestos industry evade being held accountable by victims suffering from excruciating and disabling illnesses caused by asbestos. This offensive legislation, which was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 26, 2015, would require the private asbestos bankruptcy trusts to create a “asbestos death database” with the public disclosure of asbestos victims' personal information, including the last four digits of their social security number, work and exposure history, and medical diagnoses.  The FACT Act would also delay compensation for victims who frequently have only months to live. 

Unfortunately, at no point during this hearing did members hear from the only people directly affected by this legislation – the victims of asbestos poisoning. Instead, the four-member panel was stacked 3-1 with shills for the U.S. Chamber and the asbestos industry. 

It would have been worth noting on World Cancer Day that the asbestos industry knowingly caused one of the most horrific public health crises in history, and that this ongoing tragedy was entirely preventable. Since the 1930’s, the asbestos industry knew that their deadly product caused serious and often fatal diseases including an aggressive and ferociously fatal cancer of the lung and stomach lining called mesothelioma, as well as lung and ovarian cancers, and asbestosis. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions by funding research into asbestos diseases and paying for the removal of the toxin from our schools, homes, and workplaces, the asbestos industry directs its time and resources to making shameless attempts to limit their victims’ access to justice. 

Asbestos victims and their families would exclusively shoulder the burdens proposed by the FACT Act, but they have repeatedly been denied the opportunity to voice their concerns about this bill – even on a day established to recognize the dire need to prevent cancer.