Sen. Jeff Merkley signing The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019

U.S. Congress PRESS RELEASE: Merkley, Bonamici, Pallone, Slotkin Introduce Bill To Ban Asbestos Now 

PRESS RELEASE: ADAO Applauds the U.S. Senate for Unanimously Passing the Fifteenth Resolution (S.Res.92) Designating April 1-7 “National Asbestos Awareness Week” (March 5, 2019)

PRESS RELEASE: The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) Applauds the U.S. Congressional Bicameral Introduction of The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 (March 7, 2019)

Posted on March 7, 2019
Updated on March 15, 2019

Earlier today, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) introduced The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 (ARBAN) (S. 717) and (H.R. 1603).

I’m honored to have the bill named after my late husband, Alan, but this is about the hundred’s of thousands of Alan’s who have been diagnosed or died from preventable asbestos-caused diseases.  

The updated Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act will save lives by banning asbestos use and importation, without exceptions or exemptions. The four major differences from last year are:

  1. Ban the importation, manufacture, processing, and distribution of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing mixtures and articles within 12 months, including products in which asbestos is present as an impurity;
  2. Establish a new Right-to-Know program to require current importers, processors and distributors to report and disclose to the public how much asbestos is in US commerce, where and how it is used, and who is exposed;  
  3. Require the EPA and the Departments of Labor and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive study of risks presented by the presence of asbestos where it was used in building construction decades ago, including in millions of residences, businesses, factories, public buildings, and schools.; and
  4. Impose these requirements on the extremely hazardous Libby Amphibole, richterite, winchite, as well as the other six asbestos fibers: chrysotile, actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and tremolite.

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici proudly holding the signed Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019

“It’s outrageous that in the year 2019, asbestos is still allowed in the United States,” said Senator Jeff Merkley. “While the EPA fiddles, Americans are dying. It’s time for us to catch up to the rest of the developed world, and ban this dangerous public health threat once and for all.”

“Asbestos causes disease and death, and we must protect families and communities from this known carcinogen,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “It is unacceptable that Oregonians and thousands of people across the U.S. continue to die from asbestos-related diseases each year. I am proud to introduce the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, legislation to ban the importation, manufacture, and distribution of asbestos. I thank my colleagues, Senator Jeff Merkley and Chairman Frank Pallone, and look forward to continuing working with them to advance this lifesaving bill.”

“It’s long past time to ban asbestos and honor those who fought so hard to bring the dangers forward,” shared former Senator Barbara Boxer.

This bill comes at a critical time as current research estimates that nearly 40,000 Americans die annually as a result of asbestos-caused diseases. Scientists agree that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.  

Despite these facts, raw asbestos imports by the Chlor-Alkali industry – the nation’s largest asbestos importers – continue unabated. These plants have been increasing their asbestos imports in recent years even though alternative asbestos-free processes are economically viable and widely used in Europe.  

Asbestos isn’t just limited to homes and buildings. Asbestos contamination can be in the most unlikely places. In fact, U.S. Food & Drug (FDA) warning that “tests confirmed the presence of asbestos in three of the product samples of cosmetics collected from Claire’s and one of the product samples collected from Justice.” Other recent tests have shown asbestos in children’s crayons.

We are grateful to the ARBAN 2019 cosponsors and supporters. In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey “Ed” (D-MA), Bernard “Bernie” Sanders (I-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In the House, ARBAN is cosponsored by Reps. Nanette Barragan (D-CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-9), Steve Cohen (D-TN-9), Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4), (Dianna DeGette[D-CO1, Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-3), Katie Hill (D-CA-18), Jared Huffman (D-CA-2), Hank Johnson (D-GA-4), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-4), Raja Krishnamoorthi [D-IL-8], Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-7), Doris Matsui (D-CA-6), Betty McCollum (D-MN-4), James P. McGovern (D-MA-2), Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Donald Payne (D-NJ-10), Mark Pocan (D-WI-2), David Price [D-NC4], Mike Quigley (D-IL-5), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-8), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-1), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA-38), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5), Darren Soto (D-FL-9), Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), David J. Trone (D-MD-6) Jefferson Van Drew (D-NJ-2), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY-7).

ARBAN is supported by AFL-CIO, American Public Health Association (APHA); Center for Environmental Health; Collegium Ramazzini; Environmental Health Strategy Center; Environmental Information Association (EIA); Environmental Working Group (EWG); Global Ban Asbestos Network (GBAN); Hazards: International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (HFIAW); International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF); Less Cancer; Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF); Toxic-Free Future; United States Public Interest Research Groups (U.S. PIRG); and internationally, Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto (ABREA). 

ADAO counsel and former senior EPA official under Presidents Clinton and Obama, Bob Sussman explained why this bill is so important: “This comprehensive and uncompromising legislation will finally close the door to the mining, importation, processing and distribution in commerce of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. EPA started down this road 30 years ago but an unfortunate court decision blocked its path. Congress tried to fix the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) so EPA could ban asbestos but the Trump EPA is not up to the task. It’s time for Congress to finish the job.”

“It’s hard to imagine an easier piece of legislation to support than a proposal banning any future importation and use of asbestos,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “There have been times when parts of the U.S. Capitol building have been shuttered in order to remove the deadly substance so members of Congress would not be exposed. Now it’s time for our elected leaders to take action of their own so asbestos can never again be imported and used in the U.S.”

Asbestos Victim, Ann Samuelson shared, “I am so incredibly grateful that Congresswoman Bonamici and Senator Merkley who are stepping up with ADAO to save lives by banning asbestos imports and also giving the public the right to know where asbestos is in their communities by supporting the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019. legislation.” 

This has been a landmark week with the passage of the 15th Asbestos Awareness Week Resolution and the introduction of ARBAN. While this is certainly a moment worthy of some celebration, we must not forget that it is by no means the finish line. ARBAN must still go through the traditionally long series of House and Senate hearings and markups before it even receives a vote. Thankfully, there is still plenty that you can do to make sure that ARBAN does get a vote. Use this website and call your U.S. Senators and Representatives to tell them you support ARBAN and urge them to support the bill too. You can also use social media to share ADAO’s blogs, share your story, and share with the world why ARBAN matters to you. Finally, make your voice heard during Asbestos Awareness Week (April 1-7) and at ADAO’s 15th annual Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference (April 5-7) in Washington D.C.

Lastly, countless people who made the new 2019 ARBAN possibly, especially the staffers for Sen. Merkley, Representative Bonamici, Chairman Pallone (D-NJ), and Representative Slotkin!

Together, we make change possible.

Linda Reinstein

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