Effect Measure

Another outrage

Asbestos is bad stuff. You don’t have to see too many workers die from asbestos-caused disease to feel pretty strongly about it. So it is distressing to read of the plight of ten workers who have spent years under the nation’s Capitol in tunnels strewn with friable asbestos containing materials. They work for the Architect of the Capitol, a Presidential appointment. They have been complaining about their working conditions for years, to no avail. X-rays of their lungs reportedly show signs of asbestos scarring and they are also at increased risk for various asbestos-related cancers, notably lung cancer and a cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen, mesothelioma.

Finally they are being transferred from their hazardous tunnels to . . .

Most have heard that they are being transferred to the power plant, which is in the midst of a seven-month asbestos removal. Some workers fear they will be assigned the lowliest work as punishment for speaking out.

“I’m going from one contaminated spot to another,” said John Thayer, who told a Senate committee last month that he and the nine tunnel rats he supervises have experienced harassment and retaliation from supervisors who “badger us and try to discredit us and say we’re lying about the conditions.” (Washington Post)

As I said, you don’t have to see more than one “pulmonary cripple” (someone so short of breath they can’t even get out of bed to go to the lavatory and remain tethered to their oxygen tanks until they die) or one asbestos induced lung cancer or one mesothelioma (it kills quickly and painfully; a diagnosis is a virtual death sentence) to be outraged by this.

Outrage against an administration that has produced so much outrage hardly seems possible any more. But I’m outraged nonetheless. I didn’t think I had it in me.


  1. #1 M. Randolph Kruger
    April 12, 2007

    I have but one comment on this….lawsuit against their employers. The USGOVT is required to assess these threats and they are not doing it. The IG is required to do it an if they arent then the USGOVT is responsible and can be held personally and severally liable.

    Might want to see if they are being paid the right amount too under the contract. Thats a Labor Law thing too.

    We dont need more laws, just enforce what we have and it will make most employers stand up and take notice.

  2. #2 Melanie
    April 12, 2007

    I can hook these guys up with GOOD pro-bono representation. I have friends in both the employment law and environmental law communities.

  3. #3 marquer
    April 13, 2007

    All the more egregious in light of there being a large industry segment devoted specifically to asbestos remediation, which has successfully evolved a set of best practices that are demonstrably able to keep workers healthy on the job. If you never inhale any fibers, they can’t make you sick.

    And 160F degrees in the tunnel? Good gravy. Had anyone ever thought of simply running a bypass steam line while the work was in progress?