The heavy use of asbestos in shipbuilding is likely one of the reasons Maine has the nation’s highest annual asbestos mortality rate, with 10.2 out of every 100,000 deaths attributable to asbestos exposure. The nationwide average is 4.9.

In fact, the rates of asbestos-triggered deaths throughout New England are all higher than the national average, underscoring how asbestos has impacted thousands of families in the region.

All told, roughly 14,100 New Englanders, including more than 2000 from Maine, died from asbestos-related disease between 1999 and 2013, according to a recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund.

Unfortunately for those who are or will fall ill at the hands of asbestos, legislation conceived by the asbestos industry and its insurance companies would slow down, if not deny, vital compensation needed to offset the mounting medical bills that come with the battle against these diseases.

The bill, the so-called FACT Act (H.R. 526) and the Senate (S. 357), would require asbestos trusts to file quarterly reports that would severely deplete dwindling trust funds set aside to compensate victims of asbestos disease.

Officials of the asbestos trusts estimate that complying with the bill would require up to 20,000 additional hours per year per trust – an onerous and expensive mandate that would inevitably slow the processing of claims and distribution of payments.

In addition, these reports would result in online disclosure of victims’ personal information such as name, employment history, medical condition and partial Social Security number, placing victims at heightened risk of identity theft. The House could vote on the measure as early as this month.

The asbestos industry should not get away with their cynical ploy to run out the clock on sick and dying Americans. Maine’s congressional delegation can and should stand with New England’s asbestos victims and strongly oppose this measure.

Alex Formuzis

vice president for strategic campaigns, Environmental Working Group Action Fund

Washington, D.C.