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Worker advocate urges lawmakers to act on bill that would ban asbestos

asbestos tape
Photo: j4m3z/iStockphoto

Redondo Beach, CA — Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization President Linda Reinstein is asking lawmakers to make a federal ban of asbestos – a known carcinogen – “a priority” during Congress’ current lame-duck session.

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, introduced in Congress several times, is named for Reinstein’s late husband, who died from mesothelioma in 2006. According to the American Public Health Association, asbestos kills almost 40,000 Americans annually.

In October, Reinstein sent a letter to Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), respective chair and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, as well as Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), respective chair and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In the letter, she cites a ProPublica report published Oct. 20 that examines dangerous working conditions at a chlorine plant that used asbestos until it closed in 2021. The reporting shows that workers were “repeatedly exposed to harmful asbestos fibers” for decades. 

“A meaningful asbestos ban is decades overdue,” Reinstein said in a press release. “Opposition has consistently come from a single source: the chlor-alkali industry, whose reliance on this outdated technology at a handful of plants is the reason thousands of tons of raw asbestos continue to be imported and used in the United States. This puts workers, their families and the surrounding communities at risk for deadly disease and death from asbestos exposure.”

The Senate version of the bill (S. 4244) was discussed June 9 during a hearing of the chamber’s Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee. The House version (H.R. 7810) was referred to that chamber’s Energy and Commerce Committee on May 18.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposed rule that would ban the use of chrysotile asbestos. The only known form of asbestos imported into the United States, chrysotile asbestos is found in products such as aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, brake blocks, sheet gaskets, and other vehicle friction products.

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