Emergency Bill Passed to Remove Asbestos From Tunnels Under Capital Building

Architect of the Capitol Criticized for Not Making Provisions to Remove Asbestos

WASHINGTON, DC - September 22, 2006 - Contractors have begun the job of removing asbestos from the tunnels underneath our nation's Capitol complex, planning to dispose of at least 1,000 bags of the substance this month (The Hill, September 15, 2006). Last February, inspectors found high levels of asbestos dust on conveyor belts and around underground utility lines located in the tunnels, which provide steam and chilled water for the Capitol buildings. The asbestos poses a serious health hazard for tunnel workers as well as a potential problem for other employees who might come into contact with the substance at tunnel entrances located near office buildings.

Outraged by the asbestos right under their feet, three Senators-Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Wayne Allard (R-CO) and Dick Durbin (D-IL)-introduced an amendment to the emergency supplemental spending bill that would provide $26.8 million to clean up the Capitol tunnels (Press Release, April 27, 2006). The amendment passed. However, asbestos removal and tunnel repairs will likely cost up to $200 million, according to the Architect of the Capitol, the agency responsible for maintaining the Capitol tunnels and buildings.

The House Committee has criticized the Architect's "failure to plan, budget for, and address the continuous maintenance and stewardship of the steam tunnels." The Office of Compliance identified the asbestos tunnel hazard in a formal complaint filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last February, almost six years after a citation was issued about crumbling asbestos and unstable walls in the 100-year-old tunnels.

Asbestos in Our Homes and Buildings

Asbestos In the Home

Where might I findasbestos in my home?

Sadly, the buildings in the Capitol complex are not the only structures that still contain asbestos. Over the years, building material manufacturers used asbestos in dry wall, joint compounds, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, plaster, insulation, pipe wrap, and roofing shingles. By one estimate, over 35 million homes in the United States may contain asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation and many residences still include asbestos in other areas.

If asbestos-containing building materials become frayed or worn, asbestos may be released into the air where people can breathe it in. Asbestos may also be released during repairs, remodeling or demolitions. Workers in the building and construction trades run a particularly high risk for asbestos exposure.

Inhaling asbestos can cause diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The substance does its damage slowly-it takes decades after initial exposure before you may develop an asbestos-related disease.

Your Asbestos Lawsuit

If you have been exposed to asbestos and developed asbestosis or cancer, we would like to provide you with legal help. Please contact our asbestos lawyers or call us at 1-800-361-0315. We will review your case free of charge, answer your questions and advise you of your legal choices.