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Gazette State Bureau

HELENA – Leading U.S. senators will get a personal lesson on the dangers of asbestos contamination in Libby this afternoon, during a committee hearing on workplace asbestos exposure.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hear in Washington, D.C., from those familiar with the asbestos toll taken in Libby, including Montana Democrat U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and Dr. Alan Whitehouse, a Spokane physician who has treated hundreds of Libby asbestos victims.

Published reports have linked nearly 200 deaths to asbestos exposure from Libby’s former vermiculite mine, owned and operated by W.R. Grace and Co. Hundreds more people are sick with asbestosis and other related diseases, according to federal health studies of past and former Libby residents.

The U.S. Senate hearing, called for by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., will focus on workplace safety and asbestos contamination. The hearing will address other issues of workplace exposure to asbestos beyond what has happened in Libby.

The committee is led by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and includes member Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md. The hearing begins at 2 p.m. EST, or noon in Montana.

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