Capitol workers claim asbestos exposure

March 28th, 2006

Utility pipes below the U.S. Capitol complex in Washington, D.C., are lined with crumbling asbestos, according to the men who work in the tunnels. Ten of the employees sent a letter to legislators in February detailing their experience below the complex, including thick asbestos dust, punishing heat and locked emergency exits. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, has been linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma and other illnesses.

Tunnels connecting the power plant to the Senate and House office buildings are so rife with deadly asbestos that Capitol Police do not dare venture there; this has become a security concern as well as a health concern.

The Architect of the Capitol (the agency that maintains the tunnels and federal office buildings in the complex) was cited in 1998 for failing to correct dangerous conditions. Only this year did the tunnel crew receive respirators. Some of them claim to have samples that are 30 times over the legal limit for asbestos exposure.

The tunnel workers, whose public case has been taken up by several members of Congress, have yet to file an asbestos lawsuit or mesothelioma lawsuit, but that may change soon. The doctor of at least one of the men, John Thayer, told him his lungs are severely damaged because of the heavy asbestos exposure.

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