When an American citizen is diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, their family members are often caught off guard: the condition is extremely rare. They are surprised to hear that it is still possible to be exposed to asbestos, a material that most people associate both with cancer and with a long-ago past. Our society is so focused on preserving health and protecting against toxins that most people assume that asbestos use was banned in the United States decades ago, but this is not the case. Though there have been numerous efforts to do so, the asbestos and chemical lobby has stood in the way of those efforts. Now a group of seven senators led by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, are attempting to put a halt to asbestos use again.
Merkley is the sponsor of the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2017, a law that would attempt to put an end to the scourge of mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases by eliminating asbestos use and exposure in the United States. Together with New Jersey’s Senator Cory Booker, Montana’s Senator Jon Tester, and other Democrats, Merkley’s bill sets out three goals:
- To stop the manufacturing, processing, use or distribution of commercial asbestos outside of those uses already allowed by the EPA within one year of the bill’s passage.
- To have the Environmental Protection Agency identify all known uses of and exposures to asbestos, providing an assessment of those uses and dangers.
- To have restrictions placed on the use of asbestos within 18 months, with an eye to eliminating both human and environmental exposure to the toxic material.
Health advocates had hoped that the passage of the 2016 Toxic Substances Control Act would have made this type of action unnecessary. That law was designed to set a course for the methodical identification of toxic materials, and their eventual elimination from the U.S. environment. But the Trump administration has signaled that it has no intention of taking steps to protect the public from asbestos, despite evidence of its role in causing mesothelioma and other illnesses. Trump himself has referred to asbestos as a “miracle” and has said that it should be legal.
But according to Mt. Sinai Hospital thoracic surgeon Dr. Raja Flores, who operates on patients diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, “Asbestos is a killer. The evidence is clear. This bill is a life-saving bill. It can save more lives than I can with my knife. Any politician who doesn’t get that is protecting some group that would lose money if asbestos were banned.”
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition like mesothelioma, we can provide you with valuable information about your rights. Contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.