Senate bill aims to ban asbestos
Washington – A group of Senate Democrats and an independent have introduced legislation seeking to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to eliminate human or environmental exposure to asbestos, a known carcinogen still legal in the United States.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2017, introduced Nov. 2, would:
- Amend TSCA to require the Environmental Protection Agency to identify and assess known uses of – and exposures to – all forms of asbestos.
- Require EPA to impose restrictions on the use of asbestos within 18 months of enactment.
- Within 12 months, ban the manufacturing, processing, use or distribution of commerce asbestos other than described in EPA’s rule. (Although bans remain in place for some asbestos uses and products, many uses and products still are legal.)
According to a report from the advocacy group Environmental Working Group Action Fund, from 1999 to 2013 (the latest data available), the estimated number of deaths from asbestos exposure in the United States was 189,000 to 221,000 people – or 13,500 to 16,000 deaths per year.
Alan Reinstein died in 2006 at the age of 66 of mesothelioma, a disease linked to asbestos exposure. Two years earlier, his wife, Linda, started a nonprofit organization named Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. Asbestosis and lung cancer also are caused by asbestos.
“With the increase in asbestos imports and more than 15,000 Americans dying each year from asbestos exposure, the timing of the bill is critical,” Linda Reinstein said. “Moving forward to ban asbestos will save dollars and lives. It’s time to make asbestos a thing of the past in this nation once and for all.”
EPA, under a 2016 amendment to TCSA named the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, is required to set deadlines for assessment of risky chemicals. It listed asbestos as one of its first 10 chemicals to be assessed for risk, but that assessment has to be completed before action is taken to restrict or ban asbestos – which EPA is not required to do.
“Despite knowing the health risks for decades, asbestos is still used in a wide variety of construction materials that the public unwittingly comes in contact with every day,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of the bill sponsors, said in a Nov. 2 press release. “We can no longer afford to wait; Congress must ban asbestos now.”