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Lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban asbestos

Photo: LightFieldStudios/iStockphoto

Washington — Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Susan Bonamici (D-OR) on March 30 reintroduced legislation aimed at eliminating human and environmental exposure to asbestos – a known carcinogen.

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2023 (S. 1069 and H.R. 2402) would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 as well as prohibit the manufacture and use of asbestos fibers used commercially.

This includes chrysotile asbestos, the only known form of asbestos imported into the United States. It’s found in aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, brake blocks, sheet gaskets, and other vehicle friction products.

According to the American Public Health Association, asbestos kills almost 40,000 Americans annually.

Introduced in Congress several times before, the legislation is named for Alan Reinstein, who died in 2006 at age 66 of mesothelioma – a cancer of the membranes in the abdomen and chest that’s associated with asbestos exposure. Linda Reinstein, his widow, is president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

“This long overdue legislation will stop hundreds of tons of raw asbestos imports and asbestos-containing products from entering the United States,” she said in a press release. “ARBAN will protect all Americans – especially vulnerable workers, disadvantaged communities, consumers, first responders and children – who are most at risk of being exposed to this deadly carcinogen. Asbestos remains legal, lethal and a far too common threat in the United States.”

A press release from Merkley’s office notes that more than 60 nations have banned the commercial use of asbestos. In April 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposed rule that would ban the use of chrysotile asbestos. A notice published in the March 17 Federal Register contained additional information related to chrysotile asbestos diaphragms used in the chlor-alkali industry, as well as sheet gaskets used in chemical production. Comments are due April 17.

In an April 4 letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, the leading global organization for chlor-alkali production indicated an intent to comply with the proposal. The organization would cease importing asbestos into the United States and within two years stop manufacturing or replacing asbestos diaphragms, the letter states. All asbestos use would stop within seven years.

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