Asbestos Bill Roils Public Health Groups

GOP-backed legislation touted as necessary to keep lawyers from raiding funds set up for people suffering from asbestos poisoning is coming under fire from public health advocates who say the proposal will only create hurdles for victims of diseases like Mesothelioma.

The dispute centers on roughly 60 trusts with nearly $40 billion in assets set up to compensate people sickened by the mineral fiber linked to cancer.

Though both sides agree victims should be compensated, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) said the system’s limited funding needs to be protected by legislation that’s now moving through the House.

“When trusts are out of money, future folks who were exposed aren’t going to have a remedy,” he said. “There won’t be any money to help them with their medical bills.”

The funds were created in the mid-1990s, when the bankruptcy code was amended to allow asbestos manufacturers filing for bankruptcy to create trusts to compensate people poisoned by asbestos.