Asbestos is one of the main causes of mesothelioma. In fact, all forms of asbestos can lead to the development of mesothelioma and other related diseases. Mesothelioma is an unforgiving form of cancer that affects roughly 3,000 Americans each year. The tumor has a lengthy latency period. Symptoms may take anywhere from 10 to 50 years to surface.
Despite its lethal propensities, asbestos is still legal in the United States. Currently, there is an asbestos ban bill pending in the United States. The bill, now formally titled the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019, has progressed to the House of Representatives for approval.
Nations with Asbestos Bans
Over 60 nations have completely banned asbestos, and several countries have implemented restrictions on its use. Countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, and all 28 countries of the European Union have entirely banned the use of asbestos. That could soon become 68 nations if the United States passes the proposed ban bill. Australia has eliminated the use of asbestos since 2003. This is significant because any goods imported from Australia will be free of asbestos. Asbestos has been banned in Iceland since 1983.
Asbestos in Consumer Products
You may be shocked to find out that asbestos, even today, is still used in hundreds of consumer products ranging from cosmetics to toys and extending to construction materials. In the United States, the use of asbestos is strictly regulated under government agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which were first introduced in the 1970s. The regulations set forth by these agencies allow asbestos in consumer products as long it contains less than 1% of the product.
“Don’t Shoot the Messenger”
The United States was once the world’s greatest consumer of asbestos. In the 1960s, New York physician, Dr. Irving J. Selikoff, became the leading medical expert on asbestos-related diseases. He remained the center of controversy in the United States for several decades. The media demonized Dr. Selikoff for pointing out the connection between the toxic mineral and asbestos-related illnesses.
According to a source, the vilification of can best be described as “…most of the attacks on Selikoff were inspired by the asbestos industry or its sympathizers, and for much of his career he was the victim of a sustained and orchestrated campaign to discredit him.” His studies put a spotlight on the asbestos industry, which threatened a number of companies and their profits.
Attempts to Officially Ban Asbestos in the United States
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the United States enacted more legislation aimed to regulate the use of asbestos. The regulations included:
- Clean Air Act of 1970 – this act officially classified the mineral as a hazardous airborne pollutant, which allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate not only the use of asbestos but also its disposal.
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 – Through the Environmental Protection Agency, this act restricted the use of certain chemicals, including radon, lead-based paint, and asbestos.
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 – the Environmental Protection Agency set forth standards and criteria but the inspection and removal of asbestos in schools across the country.
- Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule (ABPR)of 1989 – the Environmental Protection Agency explored imposing a complete ban on the importation processing manufacturing and sale of any product that contained asbestos. This essentially banned asbestos; however, in 1991, the ban was overturned.
All of these efforts were met with ferocious opposition to the rule. The asbestos industry countered, emphasizing the economic consequences and increasing unemployment rates throughout the industry. The Ban Asbestos in America Act, better known as the Murray Bill, was introduced in 2002, which is similar to the proposed Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019, intended to completely ban asbestos in the United States. The Murray Bill was ultimately defeated.
A recent press release explained the process the Environmental Protection Agency must go through when assessing certain chemicals. They expressed that, “[a]lthough the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included asbestos on its list of the first ten chemicals for risk reviews under the 2016 revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA’s safety assessment must be completed before EPA can consider any controls on asbestos, and the EPA is not required to ban it.”
Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act was introduced in 2008. It was named after Congressman Vento, who lost his battle to mesothelioma in 2000. It was also unsuccessful. Advocates and legislatures are hopeful that the ban bill will be approved by the House of Representatives and proceed to the United States Senate.
Asbestos Disease and Awareness Organization
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded in 2004 and has become one of the most impressive victims’ organizations in the United States. The president of the ADAO is Alan Reinstein’s widow, Linda Reinstein. The new bill is named after the late Alan Reinstein, who passed away at the age of 66 in 2006 after his brave battle with mesothelioma.
The organization’s mission is to raise awareness about the real threat asbestos poses to Americans and the development of mesothelioma. The organization promotes awareness and educates the public about the ongoing issues with asbestos-related diseases. It also is dedicated to exposing environmental and occupational hazards while exploring preventive measures in place.
Mrs. Reinstein explained, “[t]he Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 will take long-overdue action to stop hundreds of tons of raw asbestos imports and asbestos containing products from entering the U.S. It will protect all Americans – workers, consumers, and children – from being exposed to this deadly threat.”
The New Bill is Gaining Momentum in Congress
The bill has attracted more attention in the recent hearings and throughout the legislation. The director at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, a sub-department of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently testified during a December 2, 2019 hearing that “[a]sbestos is a known carcinogen so there is no safe level of asbestos in talc.”
On December 10, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy held a second hearing that examined carcinogens and discussed the best methods for detecting asbestos.
The Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act) passed the Energy and Commerce Full Committee by a vote of 47 -1. The next stop for the ban bill is in the House of Representatives. Advocates and legislatures alike are one step closer to achieving a decade long goal for a bill banning asbestos and transforming into U.S. law.
If the bill is passed, the new law will prohibit the commercial use and distribution of asbestos. It would also outlaw the importation and mining of the mineral. Minus a few exceptions, the new law would ban the carcinogen within one year.