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Release Date: 04/24/98
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EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner and Attorney General Janet Reno held a press conference today announcing the indictment of three men with conspiring to hire homeless workers to illegally remove asbestos.
A statement is attached and the related materials can be obtained through the Internet at:


                  Remarks Prepared for Delivery
                Asbestos Case:  Homeless Workers
               EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner
                         Washington DC
                         April 24, 1998

     Thank you Attorney General Reno. Thank you all for coming.

     Today's indictment sends a clear message: The Clinton-Gore Administration will call to account anyone who violates our nation's environmental laws. We especially will call to account those who place at risk the health and safety of vulnerable people.

     What we do today is both punishment and prevention. We want to send a loud signal to
those who are even thinking of preying on the vulnerable and jeopardizing their health: We will prosecute you to the full extent of the law.

     Asbestos is a very real, very dangerous health threat. Its fibers are sharp. When inhaled, they work themselves deep into the lungs. Over a long period -- 20 to 40 years -- the irritation from the fibers can evolve into something far worse: an often-fatal lung disease known as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, or cancer of the chest lining.

     Asbestos was used in almost all building construction before 1950. Between 1940 and 1980, 27 million Americans had significant occupational exposure to asbestos. While we have made progress, today asbestos still poses a public health threat.

     To guarantee strong public health protection, EPA continues to strictly regulate the removal of asbestos. We require employers to train asbestos workers and follow proper health and safety procedures.

     But in several cases reported across the country, some asbestos contractors are showing a callous disregard of the law, the health of their workers, and the communities in which they work. These unscrupulous contractors are using the homeless and dayworkers to illegally strip asbestos.     EPA has joined with the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to post an advisory in homeless shelters and transitional housing for the homeless across the country. We are warning unsuspecting people that their health and safety is in grave danger from these violators of the law.

     We will be working with the National Coalition for the Homeless to ensure that those providing services to the homeless are fully aware of the problem -- and we have a number they can call: 1-800-368-5888.

     The Clinton-Gore Administration is committed to the basic proposition of equal environmental protection for everyone -- regardless of income. Each and every one of us is entitled to safe drinking water, clean air to breathe, safe land upon which to live.

     EPA has 190 criminal investigators working on environmental crimes around the country, including those in minority and low-income neighborhoods. We prosecute to the full extent of the law. Strong enforcement ensures strong, safe, healthy communities.
     It is a sad day when greed governs. It is a sad day when one person profits by exploiting another.

     Every American deserves to live in the cleanest, safest, healthiest community possible. And we will use the full force of our enforcement authority to ensure this for all citizens of this country.

     Thank you.