House committee to hold hearing on asbestos handling at Smithsonian

Chris Rizo Mar. 18, 2009, 12:50pm

Robert Brady (D)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-A U.S. House committee plans to hold hearings next month on the handling of asbestos at the Smithsonian Institution amid claims that the Smithsonian didn't properly contain asbestos dust from construction.

House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Brady, D-Pa., said he plans to investigate the "dangerous workplace conditions" at the Smithsonian. The committee oversees the Smithsonian, which is administered and funded by the federal government.

"Asbestos exposure is a serious issue and has far-reaching, adverse health effects," Brady said in a statement. "I am extremely concerned over allegations that the health and safety of Smithsonian visitors and workers have been compromised by a lack of communication and inadequate protection."

Brady's comments follow a story Sunday in The Washington Post in which a former Smithsonian worker Richard Pullman, a 27-year Smithsonian veteran, claims he developed asbestosis after working on asbestos-containing walls at the National Air and Space Museum.

"At a minimum, museum officials should be prepared to discuss what measures have been taken thus far and how they plan to address the concerns that have been outlined," Brady said. "The rationale that staff and organizational changes have prevented effective action is unacceptable."

The 53-year-old museum lighting specialist filed a whistleblower claim Tuesday. He claims the Smithsonian retaliated against him by giving him a demotion after made safety complaints to the institution, a claim the Smithsonian denies.

Pullman claims officials at the Smithsonian had known for 17 years of the asbestos in the Air and Space Museum but did not warn its workers to wear protective gear.

He told reporters that when he found out that the museum wall has asbestos, he felt "completely betrayed."

Pullman has filed for workers' compensation, but his claim was denied. He is appealing that decision, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

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