Wednesday, October 19th, 2016.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016 S.3427 was introduced to the Senate on September 28, 2016. Supported by Senator Barbara Boxer, this bill was read and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. Its purpose is to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to potentially have asbestos banned in the United States. If passed, it would prohibit manufacturing, processing, use, distribution and disposal of asbestos.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen that had widespread use throughout the 20th century in the United States and around the world. Asbestos fibers are strong, fire resistant, abundant, and cheap, making it a popular building material. Asbestos was used for insulation, floor tiles, shingles, drywall, brake pads, and even mattresses. Workers and their families suffering from the effects of breathing in asbestos fibers, and the slew of litigation that took off in the 1970s, put the dangers of asbestos on the map; many calling for its ban long before this most recent piece of legislation. The TSCA went into effect in 1976 and its purpose was to find out if a particular product or substance was harmful to people and the environment. If it was, then the government could act by potentially banning the product. It was thought that asbestos would be banned without question since asbestos exposure leads to incurable cancer such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses. Unfortunately in 1991, loopholes in the TSCA that considered the damages and affects that banning asbestos would have on the economy allowed asbestos to remain legal in the United States.
Today, asbestos is heavily regulated in the United States, but with imports coming in from different areas throughout the world, industries and manufacturers are still allowed to produce certain products that contain asbestos. Asbestos is still found in pipeline wraps, clothing, vinyl floor tiles, cement pipes, brake pads, gaskets, and more. Any product that contains asbestos has the potential to become hazardous to a person’s health.
This bill is protected by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that was signed earlier this year by President Obama. This act updates the TSCA and allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more control over monitoring certain chemicals, hopefully setting a standard that all chemicals will be required to meet. Even though this law is a huge step forward in banning the carcinogen, it could take up to seven years to get asbestos banned. Environmentalists are concerned for Americans; hundreds of thousands of people could lose their lives in that time period.
Since the effects of asbestos exposure do not become apparent for decades, there is a push to enact a piece of legislation that would not only ban asbestos, but ban it in a timely manner. The newly proposed Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016 would ensure the ban of asbestos in a much shorter period than 7 years – just 18 months.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016 is named after mesothelioma victim and former Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization President, Alan Reinstein. Alan was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2003. After multiple surgeries, and chemotherapy, Alan passed away just three years after his initial diagnosis in 2006.
Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016, S.3427, 114th Congress. (2015-2016). [Link]
“Asbestos Disease Awareness Org. President Urges Congressional Support of Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016, S. 3427, Introduced Today by Senator Barbara Boxer,” BusinessWire, (September 30, 2016). [Link]
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