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.