New Senate Bill May Help Ban Asbestos for Good

July 28, 2018
Regulatory Accountability Act Would Keep Asbestos Legal

It may be a surprise to some, but asbestos is still legal in the United States and is used by a variety of industries. This is true despite the fact that asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, an often lethal cancer that largely affects the lining of the lungs and the lining of the peritoneal cavity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that mesothelioma took the lives of over 45,000 Americans between 1999 and 2015.

Some enterprising senators, however, are looking to finally create an outright ban on the material that causes mesothelioma. They introduced a bill in November 2017 that would effectively set the wheels in motion for banning asbestos.

What Would the Bill Do?

For starters, banning asbestos isn’t a far-flung idea. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried to do it in 1989, but that attempt was shot down by the courts in 1991. The most recent bill introduced in the Senate is the sixth attempt at banning the toxic material in the last twenty years.

It also comes on the heels of the 2016 Frank J. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (or the Lautenberg Act). The Lautenberg Act was passed into law and provided a roadmap for the prohibition of asbestos in the United States. Despite this, change has been slow-going, partially due to the current administration’s unwillingness to call for an outright ban on the substance.

The most recent attempt at banning asbestos is trying to speed up the process set forth in the Lautenberg Act. It would alter the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act by requiring the EPA to analyze and assess how asbestos is used and how exposure to it can occur. It would also require the EPA to tightly restrict the use of asbestos in any U.S. product within 18 months and to ban the manufacture or other production of non-accepted asbestos products within a year. Under current legislation, this is meant to take place over the course of seven years.

Why is Asbestos Still Legal in the United States?

Fifty-five nations throughout the world have banned asbestos, and the U.S. remains one of the few developed nations to have kept its legal status intact. Part of this is because asbestos is affordable and resistant to fire, which makes it an ideal candidate for building materials. Beyond that, the strength of the asbestos industry lobby is a major reason for the continued legality of the material.

Despite the fact that asbestos is a known carcinogen, its main proponents rely on it for their wealth. Even so, the substance appears to be on its way out, especially if the newest bill (or something like it) is passed in Congress. Senators who sponsored the bill include:

  • Cory Booker (D-NJ)
  • Jon Tester (D-MT)
  • Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
  • Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Dick Durbin (D-IL)

While the bill may not pass, it’s an important step in removing asbestos from any consumer product in the United States. The country is getting closer each day to banning this toxic material.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call or email us for a free consultation.