Monday, April 7th, 2008.
The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute unanimously supports a complete ban on asbestos-containing products and adequate funding for research on asbestos-related diseases. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce's draft bill, currently referred to as the "committee print," is the best vehicle to address a true ban and provide meaningful funding.
Public health concerns should prevail
We support the committee print's ban on all asbestos containing products. We explicitly reject the "less than one-percent" exemption, which would allow the continued use of asbestos as long as this toxic mineral is less than one percent by product weight. Such an exemption would allow industry to include one pound of lethal asbestos in a 100-pound bag of insulation. This one-percent exemption would perpetuate the misery of the asbestos disease epidemic and is indefensible on public health policy grounds.
We support the committee print's broad, effective asbestos ban as the first federal legislation that recognizes what scientists have known for decades: there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. The committee print's broad ban also reinforces the fact that there is no scientific or public health basis for allowing the one-percent exemption. The committee print also authorizes government-funded compliance testing of products in American markets, which will safeguard against machinations by industry to dodge the ban.
The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute supports the existing committee print as the most effective, science-based standard for effectively banning asbestos. Asbestos is responsible for the worst occupational health epidemic in our country's history. We have seen no compelling health-based reason to support an exemption that would, in our view, only perpetuate the asbestos health epidemic. Sadly, the exemption is a stark reminder of the asbestos industry's dark history of fabricating scientific research, stifling work safety regulation, and putting profits over people.
Research funding for treatment and a cure
The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute supports asbestos ban legislation that includes funding for asbestos disease research. A ban must be accompanied by significant resources for public awareness, for better treatment and for finding a cure.
We support unified efforts to draft meaningful research legislation that will be merged with the committee print's current ban provisions. The committee print, with its ban provisions and its still undrafted research provision, offers an unparalleled chance for advocates and scientists to obtain, for the first time ever, enormous financial resources to better treat and ultimately cure asbestos diseases. The House subcommittee responsible for drafting these research provisions is already at work. The time is ripe for advocates to unite and work with the House to consolidate and strengthen these crucial research provisions.
The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute supports provisions that:
- Establish a competitive peer review grant program with targeted research priorities such as biological therapies, multi-modal therapies, prevention, biomarkers, and pain management;\
- Fund centers of research and treatment excellence from coast to coast;
- Fund a database, registry and tissue bank;
- Create an asbestos surveillance and public awareness program;
- Appropriate $100 million over the first five years, divided between the National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and the Veterans Administration. We note that about 1/3 of all victims of mesothelioma in the U.S. were exposed while serving in the navy or naval shipyards.
The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute believes that the opportunity for a united front is extraordinary. By working together with victims and their families, groups such as the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, doctors, advocates, cancer research institutes, and national centers for excellence, we canhere and nowdraft legislation to fully fund mesothelioma research while also supporting an effective ban as spelled out in the existing committee print.
Now versus later
The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute supports the committee print's statutory approach to an asbestos ban, and rejects the rulemaking approach used in previous attempts to ban asbestos. Statutory bans have a proven track record with toxic materials such as PCBs and DDT.
We urge all stakeholders to join with us in helping influence research funding provisions, which have yet to be crafted in the House's draft bill. Working together to write an improved bill in the House will provide a superior version to the Senate bill, which will face robust opposition in conference committee due to its unconscionable one-percent exemption. After a century of death and disease, the time for delay is past. Our board supports an immediate, unambiguous ban with research funding commensurate with the scope of the asbestos health epidemic today.
About The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute
The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation composed of physicians, patients, and advocates dedicated to the eradication of diseases of the heart, lungs, and blood. PHLBI conducts innovative research to benefit future generations.
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