Mesothelioma Victim Explains How Asbestos Bill Will Let Companies "Continue to Get Rich Off the Sickness and Death of People Like Me"

This is a letter from a mesothelioma victim to reporter Greg Gordon, concerning Gordon's latest article, "Asbestos Deal Seems Close," at

Dear Mr. Gordon:

Regarding your article in today's Star Tribune, I noted the irony in your comment that the fund would compensate disease victims. I feel compelled to point out that the main beneficiaries of the pending asbestos trust fund legislation would be the companies that perpetrated the poisoning of hundreds of thousands of Americans in the first place.

I'm a 54-year-old mesothelioma patient, with documented causation by asbestos exposure on the job and at home. My job exposure was in the US space program and energy research. I have already undergone horrendous surgery and chemotherapy, and I now face a curtailed lifetime and unbounded medical expenses, since I'm now uninsurable. My wife and I live in fear of the day that the disease will return, as it most certainly will.

My ability to continue working for very long is dubious. My wife must work until I die to maintain our insurance. If she quits, we face financial destitution. My dream of golden retirement years has evaporated. My dream of seeing grandchildren is fading.

My wife and I are pursuing an individual lawsuit against companies that we believe are responsible for my illness. Our goal is to win enough in settlements or judgments that we can stop working and have something like a normal retirement for my remaining years, without fear of financial destitution when the end approaches.

This trust fund bill would take that chance away. It would leave us in limbo for years in regard to potential compensation. I could very well be dead, and my wife financially burdened, by the time the trust fund ever kicks in. Even then, the compensation that we could expect is meager in comparison with the potential losses to myself and my family. I cannot fathom how most other asbestos victims and their families will fare under this egregious scheme.

To make this almost comical, the trust fund bill makes just a token provision for funding research on treatments or cures. There's no provision for public education or screening. Nor does the bill ban the continued importation and use of asbestos! This is a public health crisis, but it's being treated like just an economic and judiciary problem. If those responsible would have responded appropriately to the health crisis, maybe the economic and judiciary problems wouldn't be so large!

If this bill passes, the perpetrators will continue to get rich off of the sickness and death of people like me. And the perpetrators include the American government and people in general, given the fact that a third of mesothelioma patients got their disease as a direct result of Naval service.

The sponsors ironically call this bill the "FAIR" Act. I cannot imagine anything less fair and less morally defensible than a bill that again victimizes people who were first victimized in service to their country.

Why don't you write about that?

Paul S. Zygielbaum
Santa Rosa, CA

More from Paul Zygielbaum:

Anthrax and Asbestos: One Condemned, the Other Excused. Letter to John Stewart by Paul Zygielbaum. (3/14/06)

Paul Zygielbaum Statement, Press Conference, LBJ Room of the State Capitol, Washington, D.C. (2/7/06)

Ambushed by the Asbestos Industry (1/23/06)

"Arlen Specter on Asbestos Legislation." Op Ed to the New York Times (5/25/05)

Mesothelioma Victim Explains How Asbestos Bill Will Let Companies "Continue to Get Rich Off the Sickness and Death of People Like Me" (4/13/05)

Message to Congress: Clean Up the Mess by Banning Asbestos, Funding Medical Research and Compensating the Seriously Injured. Paul Zygielbaum (1/7/05)

Letters from Paul Zygielbaum to U.S. Representatives (2004)

*** UPDATED ON APRIL 13, 2005 ***