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New Call for U.S. Asbestos Ban

A new bill has been introduced in the United States Senate that would ban asbestos in the United States once and for all. Called the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemicals Protection Act, the proposed legislation has been authored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts). Its overall goal is the reformation of an existing chemical protection law called the 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA).

Though many people believe that the use of asbestos was outlawed in the United States years ago, that is not the case. That was attempted in conjunction with a rule issued in 1989 by the Environmental Protection Agency, but the ban was heavily lobbied against by the asbestos industry and the chemical industry, and was eventually overturned in 1991 on appeal. As a result, the dangerous toxin is still used in manufacturing, and continues to be imported, processed and distributed as a component of clothing, flooring and roofing products, vinyl floor tile, auto components, and cement. It is no longer legal for it to be used in insulation, patching compounds or artificial fireplace embers, and it has not been mined in the United States for over a decade. Still, despite the cutback in its use, there are still 870 metric tons of the carcinogen being imported into the United States on an annual basis. Much of the product is used by the chemical industry.

Senators Boxer and Markley have offered up their bill in response to a similar bill that was introduced by Senators Tom Udall (D- New Mexico) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana). The Udall-Vitter bill has the advantage of being a bipartisan sponsored bill, but it neither addresses the issue of banning asbestos, nor does it address the issue of states’ rights to protect their citizens from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals. The Boxer-Markley bill, which was offered to Congress just a few days after the Udall-Vitter bill, does address those issue, and was named in honor of Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer, both of whom were cancer victims. Alan Reinstein’s wife Linda cofounded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization after her husband died from mesothelioma, a rare and fatal form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

Commenting on the legislative activity, Reinstein said, “The fact that the Vitter-Udall bill will not even restrict, much less ban, the deadly substance that claims 30 lives a day is nothing short of a national travesty. The bill, embraced by the chemical industry, will only expose future generations to asbestos and many other highly toxic chemicals.”

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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