U.S. Bill to Ban Asbestos 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



Proposals to ban asbestos in the United States were announced on June 18, 2002 by Senator Patty Murray1. The eighteen page Congressional bill entitled: Ban Asbestos in America Act S. 2641 is a detailed document compiled after extensive research which included Congressional hearings held last Summer. On Tuesday, Senator Murray told the Senate of the continuing use of asbestos in the U.S.2 and the devastating impact asbestos has had on the population and environment. More than two thousand Americans die from mesothelioma, an asbestos cancer, every year. Rudy Barber, a shipyard worker, Fred Mirante, a truck driver, Congressman Bruce Vento and Admiral Elmo Zumwalt all died from mesothelioma. The Senator said: "asbestos disease strikes all different types of people in different professions who were exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives. Asbestos knows no boundaries." The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 1940-1980, 27 million Americans experienced significant levels of occupational exposure to asbestos; up to 35 million homes and businesses could contain asbestos-contaminated insulation.

Although the EPA initiated a highly-publicized program to ban asbestos in the 1980s, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban in 1991 after legal action by the asbestos industry. The administration of George Bush chose not to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. Many Americans are unaware that the use of asbestos is still permitted. In a press release issued on June 18, Ms. Murray declared "The primary purpose of the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2002 is to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the substance by 2005."

The bill, cosponsored by Senators Baucus, Cantwell, Dayton and Wellstone, has four main parts:

  1. A national ban on asbestos must be in place by 2005.

  2. Awareness of the dangers of asbestos-containing products must be raised by a public education campaign. A national asbestos audit is needed to "determine which foreign and domestic products being consumed in the United States today have been made with asbestos."

  3. Research into asbestos diseases should be funded by the Federal Government. Seven regional mesothelioma treatment centers are to be established. A national Mesothelioma Registry will be set up.

  4. The scope of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Asbestos will be expanded. The Panel will review: the health effects of exposure to asbestos, the accuracy of the definition of asbestos-containing material and modern procedures for the disposal of asbestos-containing products. Research on a uniform asbestos standard for federal agencies and a protocol for detecting and measuring asbestos will be undertaken. The Panel has two years to make its recommendations.

Senator Murray hopes this legislation will ensure that "fewer people will be exposed to asbestos, fewer people will contract asbestos diseases in the first place, and those who already have asbestos disease will receive treatments to prolong and improve quality of life."

July 1, 2002


1 For more information see the website: http://murray.senate.gov/asbestos.html
2 In 2001, the U.S. consumed 13,000 metric tons of asbestos. It was is used in clothing, pipeline wrap, vinyl-asbestos floor tiles, roofing material, gaskets, disc brake pads and other products. Ninety-nine per cent of the asbestos used in the U.S. comes from Canada, the country which leads the international asbestos lobby.



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