Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) have introduced a bill that would strengthen the country’s chemical protection laws and specifically ban asbestos use.
The Boxer-Markey bill, called the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemicals Protection Act, aims to reform the 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). According to a U.S. Senate press release, the bill’s key provisions include a requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) act quickly to consider a ban on asbestos. Asbestos remains legal in the United States despite being a significant cause of occupational death. The bill also maintains states’ rights to protect people from dangerous toxic chemicals.
A report from The Hill says that the Boxer-Markey bill is an alternative to the bipartisan chemical reform bill introduced earlier in the week by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA). That bill does not address the issues of states’ rights or an asbestos ban. Environmentalists, consumer advocates and Sens. Boxer and Markey claim that the Udall-Vitter bill was influenced by the chemical industry.
The namesakes of the Boxer-Markey legislation, Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer, are both cancer victims. Alan Reinstein died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in 2006. He was the husband of Linda Reinstein, co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). Ms. Reinstein criticized the Vitter-Udall bill in an ADAO press release for not addressing asbestos, a human carcinogen that, according to the ADAO, claims 10,000 American lives and 107,000 lives worldwide each year.
Ms. Reinstein said she applauds Sens. Boxer and Markey for their leadership in taking steps to eliminate exposure to asbestos, the cause of the most occupational deaths in history.
Despite Dangers, Asbestos Remains Legal in U.S.
It has been known for decades that asbestos poses a danger to human health. A 1989 EPA-issued final rule to the Toxic Substances Control Act banned most asbestos-containing products, but this rule was overturned in 1991 by an appeals court.
The asbestos industry lobbied aggressively to overturn the ban and today it is still legal to manufacture, import, process and distribute a wide range of asbestos products, including cement, clothing, flooring and roofing products, vinyl floor tile and automotive components.
Not all asbestos products are legal, however. Regulations passed in the 1970s outlawed products such as insulation, patching compounds and artificial fireplace embers.
Asbestos has not been mined in the United States since 2002, but the mineral fiber is still imported on a large scale. United States Geological Society documents show that in 2013, the U.S. imported 870 metric tons of asbestos.
The chloralkali industry—an element of the chemical industry—accounts for two-thirds of U.S. asbestos consumption.
Know more about Mesothelioma and how you can deal with it.
- U.S. Senate press release
- United States Geological Society documents
- ADAO press release
- The Hill