August 31, 2006
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Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles.
Dr. William Thornton (May 20, 1759 - March 28, 1828) was an early American inventor, painter and architect who designed the United States Capitol. He also served as the first Architect of the Capitol and first Superintendent of the United States Patent Office.
Asbestos in the U.S.
On March 24, 2006, the office of Senator Barbara
Mikulski of Maryland received a letter signed by ten
members of the United States Capitol tunnel shop
detailing the dangerous conditions posed by asbestos that exist in the
tunnels, and providing information that indicates some,
if not all, of these conditions have existed for at
least 6 years.
Inside tunnels that snake their way for miles, huge
slabs of concrete fall from ceilings and white powder
coats some pipes and floors; much of it is asbestos —
harmful fibers that can scar lungs and, potentially,
According to these workers, even the issuance in 2000 of
citations from the Congressional Office of Compliance
has not been sufficient to have the Architect of the
Capitol make the necessary repairs and take immediate,
effective steps to protect these workers.
Moreover, if it is true that U.S. Capitol Police are
forbidden from patrolling the tunnels because of the
hazardous conditions, then the failure to address these
conditions also has created a potentially serious
According to an article in the
Washington Times on June 1,
2005, "the Capitol was built and later expanded in
the 1850s using the labor of slaves who cut the logs,
laid the stones and baked the bricks. The original plan
was to use workers brought in from Europe; however,
there was a poor response to recruitment efforts and
African Americans—free and slave—comprised the majority
of the work force."
The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects
most of the internal organs of the body. It is composed
of two layers of cells: One layer immediately surrounds
the organ; the other forms a sac around it. The
mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is
released between these layers, allowing moving organs
(such as the beating heart and the expanding and
contracting lungs) to glide easily against adjacent
The mesothelium has different names, depending on its
location in the body. The peritoneum is the mesothelial
tissue that covers most of the organs in the abdominal
cavity. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the
lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity. The
pericardium covers and protects the heart. The
mesothelial tissue surrounding the male internal
reproductive organs is called the tunica vaginalis
testis. The tunica serosa uteri covers the internal
reproductive organs in women.
Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in
which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and
divide without control or order. They can invade and
damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also
metastasize (spread) from their original site to other
parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in
the pleura or peritoneum.
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for
mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is
reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases.
However, mesothelioma has been reported in some
individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur
naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can
be separated into thin threads and woven. Asbestos has
been widely used in many industrial products, including
cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products,
textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles
float in the air, especially during the manufacturing
process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause
serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma,
exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer,
asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and
other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.
The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with
heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time.
However, some individuals with only brief exposures have
developed mesothelioma. On the other hand, not all
workers who are heavily exposed develop asbestos-related
In summary, the House of the People needs to protect the
people in the house, even if they are out of sight, and
in the basement.