A rapidly growing alliance called the Asbestos Victim Coalition was announced on Friday by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). The Coalition already boasts some 20 members including consumer groups, victims’ organizations, environmental groups, and various specialists.

The goal of the Coalition is to raise awareness about the inequities in the asbestos trust fund legislation proposed by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

The Coalition is a worldwide group of broad based organizations including:
•    Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
•    Asbestos Victims Organization
•    Ban Asbestos and Eliminate Mesothelioma
•    Committee to Protect Victims of Mesothelioma
•    David Egilman MD, MPH, Brown University
•    Environmental Working Group
•    International Ban Asbestos Secretariat
•    <"">Mesothelioma Support Organization
•    New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
•    Palmer Electric Company
•    Public Citizen
•    Society for The Advancement of Occupational and Environmental Health (SAOEH)
•    Terry Trent Biologist/Asbestos Activist
•    U.S. Action
•    White Lung Asbestos Information Center
•    White Lung Association
•    9/11 Environmental Action
•    Asbestos Diseases Advisory Services of Australia
•    Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia

The increasing list of members is available online and updated daily to accommodate additional organizations. The Coalition’s opposition campaign will include asbestos victim “fly-ins” to meet and educate the entire U.S. Senate.

The priority theme will be to illustrate how victims will be adversely affected by the proposed bill. ADAO Co-founder and current Executive Director, Linda Reinstein, states: “There is strength in numbers and while the number of asbestos victims is unfortunately growing beyond anyone’s control – so, too, are the number of voices coming forward to speak out for their rights,” She hopes the Coalition will “unite the key stakeholders through such a varied and committed group of organizations and individuals…and look forward to the substantial progress we can make together.”

According to Douglas Larkin, Co-founder and Communications Director: The efforts in Congress to pass legislation aimed at the problem “has unfortunately become one about corporate bailouts instead of asbestos realities.” He continued by stating: “In the recent Senate floor debate, for example, concerns were raised that companies may go bankrupt as a result of asbestos litigation. The bigger issue is whether or not asbestos victims and their families will get the support they need and deserve, in a timeframe that makes realistic sense, given the extreme realities of asbestos disease.”

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was originally founded by victims and their families and seeks to give all concerned a united voice to help ensure that their rights are fairly represented and protected, while raising public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and often deadly asbestos related diseases.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted bill S.852 out of committee. By a 13-5 vote, the legislation that would establish a 30-year, $140 billion asbestos victims’ compensation trust fund was cleared for action by the full Senate where a number of Senators have already stated they will insist on significant changes before voting for it.

In addition, ADAO has already mounted a vocal campaign against the passage of S.852. ADAO’s president, Alan Reinstein, charges that: “This legislation does not adequately protect the rights of present and future victims and we hope the Senate does the right thing by voting ‘no’ on this corporate bailout bill.”

In essence, the bill would eliminate asbestos lawsuits and create a 30-year fund financed by companies facing litigation and their insurers. Victims would lose their right to sue for compensation and would be required to go to the fund for relief. Senate opponents of the plan see potential problems with the fund’s solvency and with the allocation of expenses between the participating companies and insurers.

ADAO, however, sees more serious problems wit the proposed fund including:
•    Outdated and incorrect medical criteria with respect to the symptoms, diagnosis, and severity of asbestos related diseases.

•    Inordinate compensation delays and improper eligibility standards.
•    Inadequate funding for research, education, prevention, and outreach.
•    Possible insolvency long before all present and future victims can access it.

While the group is not opposed to the idea of a trust fund, it would much rather see one that is fundamentally fair, adequately funded, free of bureaucratic delays, and guaranteed to be around long enough to ensure all victims would be properly compensated. ADAO also advocates giving the victims the right to choose between compensation from the fund or a trial.

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