Friday, October 05, 2007

Senate Passes Ban Asbestos In America Act

Oct 4: The United States Senate unanimously passed Senator Patty Murray's (D-WA) bill to ban asbestos, bringing the legislation closer to enactment than at any point since Murray launched her effort to protect families and workers six years ago. Murray worked closely with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Environment and Public Works Chairman Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to reach this "historic milestone." The bill passed the Senate with an amendment and an amendment to the Title by unanimous consent.

Murray said, "This is a historic day in the fight to protect Americans. Workers and their families deserve a future free of deadly asbestos exposure, and I'm not stopping until this bill is signed into law. I'm very pleased that Senators from both sides of the aisle came together to unanimously support my bill. I especially want to thank Senator Johnny Isakson for his bipartisan leadership in moving this bill forward. I also want to commend Senator Barbara Boxer who championed this bill from the start and led its quick passage through her Environment and Public Works Committee."

Isakson said, “It was a pleasure to work with Senator Murray on crafting this legislation. This bill is the culmination of months of bipartisan work to find common ground on this important issue, and I extremely pleased the Senate acted so quickly to approve it. For the few areas where asbestos is still used in the United States, this bill provides a reasonable transition so that Americans can rid themselves of asbestos once and for all.” U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works said, “Because of this bill, America is poised to join the more than 40 nations that have banned asbestos because it is deadly. This bill is long overdue... This bill will take asbestos off the shelves, and will also ensure we continue to study and treat the health effects asbestos has already caused.”

Murray's bill would ban asbestos, invest in research and treatment, and launch a public education campaign. Murray started working to ban asbestos six years ago. This March, she re-introduced her legislation as S. 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007. The bill prohibits the importation, manufacture, processing and distribution of products containing asbestos. The ban covers the 6 regulated forms of asbestos and 3 durable fibers. U.S. EPA will issue rules to ensure asbestos products are off the shelves within 2 years of the bill's enactment. The bill creates a $50 million "Asbestos-Related Disease Research and Treatment Network;" Creates a New National Asbestos-Related Disease Registry; Directs the Department of Defense to Conduct Additional Research; Identifies the Most Promising Areas for New Research; and Launches a Public Education Campaign to protect Americans.

The National Association of Manufactures (NAM), who opposed the ban and the bill, commented on the Senate passage on their blog saying, "Good grief. NIOSH and EPA and also OSHA and the CPSC have been all over the asbestos case for 35 years beginning with hearings at the Labor Department in 1972. Here are the facts. Asbestos is a useful mineral common throughout the world. Everyone has been exposed to it. There are different kinds of asbestos. The most common type, chrysotile, does not appear to be particularly hazardous to people. The majority of asbestos-related illnesses stems from excessive exposures that occurred during ship construction in World War II. After many years of intensive study, the EPA concluded that intact asbestos in buildings should be left alone.

"Asbestos has marvelous fire-retardant properties that save lives. The politically driven mania to ban asbestos creates serious hazards where none need exist. The crash of the shuttle Challenger, for example, was caused by the failure of critical O-rings which, because of a CPSC ban on asbestos products, were not sealed with the standard putty containing asbestos. Many useful products are safe for humans because they contain asbestos. This bill, if it becomes law, will create hazards where none exist."

Access a release and brief summary from Senator Murray (
click here). Access Senator Murray's Asbestos website for extensive information and links (click here). Access the Senate Committee hearing on the bill and witness testimony (click here). Access the NAM blog comments (click here). Access legislative details for S. 742 (click here). [*Toxics]