Asbestos Claims Trust - Testimony of Dr. Laura S. Welch

Testimony of
Dr. Laura Stewart Welch
Medical Director
Center to Protect Workers Rights
June 4, 2003
(part I)

Testimony of Laura Welch,
MD Medical Director, Center to Protect Workers Rights
On Asbestos Related Diseases – Medical Criteria, Populations at Risk and Disease Projections
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee
June 4, 2003

"Chairman Hatch, Senator Leahy and members of the committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to testify on medical and diagnostic criteria for asbestos-related diseases.

My name is Laura S. Welch. I am a physician, board certified in internal medicine and occupational medicine, licensed to practice here in DC and in Maryland. For many years I have had an active medical practice and treated many workers with asbestos-related disorders. I am currently medical director for The Center To Protect Workers Rights, a research institute affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades department of the AFL-CIO. I am also the author of over 50 peer-reviewed publications and technical reports in the field of occupational and environmental medicine, and am currently an investigator on six research projects in the field. I have served as a consultant to many federal agencies, including OSHA, NIOSH, CDC and the NIH. I have special interest and experience in health and safety in the construction industry. I have worked with several union-management committees on health and safety issues, including Boeing-United Auto Workers, and Rail Management and Rail Labor for the US railroad industry. Since 1987 I have worked with the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute (SMOHIT), a labor-management trust for the unionized segment of the sheet metal industry. SMOHIT has sponsored a medical examination program for sheet metal workers in the United States and Canada, to detect occupational lung disease and asbestos-related disease in particular. I have published several papers describing the findings of asbestos-related disease in this group of construction workers , and am now looking at changes in patterns of disease over time in order to project disease rates into the future. Over the past several months I have been participating on behalf of the AFL-CIO in discussions with the Asbestos Study Group, interested insurance companies, and other parties on establishment of an administrative system for asbestos compensation.

Decades of uncontrolled use of asbestos, even after its hazards were known, have resulted in an occupational disease crisis in the United States and throughout the world of monumental scope. In this country, from 1940 to 1979, 27.5 million workers were occupationally exposed to asbestos in shipyards, manufacturing operations, construction work and a wide range of other industries and occupations; 18.8 million of these having high levels of exposure . As a result hundreds of thousands of workers and their family members have suffered or died of asbestos-related cancers and lung disease, and more than a million more cases are expected. In this year alone, in 2003, almost 10,000 people in the United States are expected to die from asbestos-related diseases. Because of the long lag between exposure and the development of cancer or other asbestos diseases, the asbestos disease epidemic is only now peaking, and will be with us for decades to come. There is no disputing the fact that many have died of asbestos related disease, and many more will die in the future. Everyone here today must agree that a remedy is needed; we now must agree on what remedy is fair and adequate."

Testimony of Dr. Laura S. Welch - Part II


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