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Tunnel workers at U.S. Capitol weary of asbestos dangers (9/21)

September 21, 2006
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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., announced that he will meet next week with a ten-man tunnel crew from the Architect of the Capitol (AoC) to hear complaints that they are not receiving adequate medical treatment for possible exposure to asbestos in the Capitol complex’s utility tunnels.

The AoC, the body responsible to Congress for the maintenance, operation, development and preservation of the Capitol complex, is under fire for using asbestos tests that experts have deemed “rudimentary and inadequate.” The tunnel crew expressed concern that the doctor contracted by the AoC was not qualified to treat and test them.

“I am very concerned about these workers; they could have been easily exposed to asbestos,” said the senator. “We need to do whatever we can to protect them and make sure they are getting appropriate medical care.”

“To use a B-rating and spirometry to evaluate people with exposures to arsenic, welding fumes, asbestos, phosgene and organic solvents violates the standard of care,” said Dr. Michael Harbut, a co-director of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers in Detroit. Several members of the tunnel crew visited Harbut last month for extensive and specific tests.

The tunnel workers indicated that little has been done to fix the conditions in many tunnels. The Senate approbated nearly $28 million in the Senate Emergency Supplemental bill earlier this year to help repair the tunnels, which carry steam and chilled water to heat and cool the complex.

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