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New Asbestos Bills Before Congress, but will Meaningful Legislature Finally be Passed?

03-23-2015

A new bill has been introduced to congress this week which would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-consider a ban on asbestos, and many other toxic chemicals that have been found to cause cancer, developmental disorders, respiratory disorders, neurological disorders, and more. The Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act, is named after Alan Reinstein, who died in 2006 at the age of 66 from mesothelioma, and Trevor Schaefer, a brain cancer survivor who was diagnosed at the age of 13.

The bill would also protect states’ rights to evaluate within their own government whether or not to ban toxic and dangerous chemicals that industry backed representatives want grouped together under the more corporate friendly federal law.

The EPA attempted to ban most asbestos products in 1989, which would have prohibited the manufacture, import, processing or distribution of most asbestos containing products. However, a 1991 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected much of the rule, undoubtedly under pressure from industry funded representatives.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), one of the bill’s authors has been one of the most vocal outliers of chemical policy reform since efforts to fix the law began. “Our citizens deserve nothing less than a bill that protects them – not chemical companies.”

Another bill, The Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database Act, or READ Act, which was introduced last week in congress, seeks to establish an online database which would be administered by the EPA and detail products that contain asbestos, and where asbestos can be found. This is a direct response to the industry friendly bill, The Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act, (The FACT Act) which supporters claim is an attempt to protect future asbestos disease victims right to compensation, but is really an attempt to curtail and delay current victims right to compensation and further limit the liability companies face. Under the new law, people and companies that knowingly manufacture, process, distribute or sell products containing asbestos will be fined $10,000 a day if they fail to report to the EPA.

"Every year, far too many Americans and their families suffer the deadly consequences of asbestos exposure," says U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, (D-Ill), "The goal of this legislation is simple: Increase the transparency and accessibility of data informing the public about where asbestos is known to be present. This information will increase awareness, reduce exposure and help save lives."

Linda Reinstein, wife of deceased Alan Reinstein, president and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, said she strongly supports the READ Act. "Undoubtedly, the READ Act will save lives and dollars," she said in a statement. "One life lost from a preventable asbestos-caused disease is tragic, hundreds of thousands is unconscionable."

A lot of bills are floating around congress right now that contain the word asbestos. Some of these bills are straightforward, with the goal to protect citizens from the dangers of asbestos and hope to see this material finally banned in this country. Others are written under the guise of protecting citizens, but it’s clear if you read between the lines, and look at the track records and associates of the authors of said bills, that the goal is to protect the companies who knowingly exposed the good people of this country to the deadly material in the first place.

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