I first saw the asbestos issue back in 1984, more than 20 years ago, when then-Senator Gary Hart of colorado brought in Johns-Manville. And this very tough issue has been very elusive for more than two decades, and it has mounted in problems, reaching a situation where we now have some 74 companies which have gone into bankruptcy, thousands of individuals who have been exposed to asbestos, with deadly diseases--mesothelioma and cancer--and who are not being compensated. And about two-thirds of the claims, oddly enough, are being filed by people who are unimpaired. The number of asbestos defendants has risen sharply from about 300 in the 1980s to more than 8,400 today, and most are users of the product. It spans some 85 percent of the U.S. economy. Some 60,000 workers have lost their jobs. Employees' retirement funds are said to have shrunken by some 25 percent. And beyond any question, the issue is one of catastrophic proportions. -- Chairman Arlen Specter, at a January 11, 2005, Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing.
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