A congressional committee has granted bipartisan approval to a bill that would establish an asbestos ban in the US.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 47 to 1 to approve the bill. The vote took place on November 19th.
Mesothelioma advocacy groups like the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization are praising the move. ADAO president Linda Reinstein is the widow of the mesothelioma patient for whom the bill is named.
“This comprehensive bill will protect workers, consumers, and children from being exposed to the deadly threat of asbestos and stop hundreds of tons of asbestos from entering the United States,” said Reinstein.
Doesn’t the US Have an Asbestos Ban?
Asbestos is a recognized toxin and carcinogen. It causes many serious health problems including pleural plaques, asbestosis, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and malignant mesothelioma. Nearly 3,000 Americans die annually of mesothelioma. A 2018 research article estimates that nearly 40,000 Americans die from all asbestos-related diseases.
Given those statistics, many people are surprised that the US does not have an asbestos ban. Although it is banned in most other industrialized countries, asbestos is still legal in the US.
Instead of banning asbestos, the EPA and OSHA have regulations. They restrict the use, handling and disposal of asbestos. The rules are supposed to protect workers and the public from deadly diseases like pleural mesothelioma.
What the Bill Would Do
The bill is called the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 (ARBAN). It would ban the importation and use of asbestos and products that contain asbestos within a year.
The bill would also establish a “Right-to-Know” program. Companies that have used asbestos would have to tell the public about it. They would have to disclose how much asbestos they have used, where it was used, and who was exposed.
Because the US has never had an asbestos ban, many older homes and buildings contain asbestos. Asbestos insulation was especially common. The ARBAN bill calls for a study of that old asbestos. The study would evaluate the risk for mesothelioma and other diseases.
“It is past time for the U.S. to join the nearly 70 countries that have banned asbestos to protect public health and future generations from this known carcinogen,” said Reinstein in a statement.
The next step is for the full House to approve the bill. Reinstein says both the House and the Senate are likely to vote for it.
“Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 (ARBAN) Wins Bipartisan Approval in Energy and Commerce Committee”, November 19, 2019, Press Release, Asbestos DIsease Awareness Organization, https://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/newsroom/blogs/47-1-alan-reinstein-ban-asbestos-now-act-of-2019-arban-wins-bipartisan-approval-in-energy-and-commerce-committee/
Furuya, S, et al, “Global Asbestos Disaster”, May 2018, Internationa Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/5/1000