Posted on January 30, 2023
Over the years, ADAO has developed a multi-track strategy to protect public health from asbestos in the United States and across the globe. Most people do not know that asbestos is still legal and lethal in our country.
But tragically, over 40,000 Americans die each year from preventable illnesses caused by asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries.
ADAO’s strategy combines the power of regulation and legislation. We aim to stop imports and the use of asbestos, and to advocate for the chlor-industry transition to safer alternatives. We continue to work hard alongside other public health advocates and agencies to protect the public from toxic substances.
ADAO is grateful for the landmark steps that have been taken to reduce the impact of asbestos on public health. Many agencies work to protect Americans from asbestos. Most notably, ADAO has had the privilege of working alongside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the U.S. Surgeon General, among others, to regulate asbestos imports and use.
In April 2022, EPA released its Risk Management for Asbestos, Part 1: Chrysotile Asbestos, which determined that chrysotile asbestos does indeed present “unreasonable risks to workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and bystanders for all ongoing uses.” In the economic analysis that followed, EPA reiterated that chrysotile asbestos presents “unreasonable human health risk,” and proceeded to place a ban on just one of six asbestos fibers, and six conditions of use. While this is a great step forward, ADAO continues to emphasize that EPA’s proposal is not a comprehensive ban and is certain to face legal challenges from industry in the future. The only thing that will truly stop asbestos exposure is unambiguous legislation, which is why we continue to push for both regulation and legislation.
ADAO was excited to learn the FDA will have greater cosmetic oversight given the new Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA) in the Omnibus Spending Bill. MoCRA will require companies to test talc for asbestos within one year. This act comes after a long history of FDA’s fight for greater oversight and regulation in cosmetic ingredients to protect consumers. We are delighted that it includes asbestos, which we know has been a problem for decades.
Our multi-track strategy is also focused on raising awareness and educating the public about asbestos. Late last year, ProPublica released several important investigative reports, including an in-depth look at the dangerous asbestos exposure from chlor-alkali plants using asbestos diaphragms. ProPublica’s excellent investigations confirmed, once again, that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure and there is no such thing as “safe or controlled use”– despite claims to the contrary by those who profit from its use.
We shared research and gave interviews to help with this important work. Meanwhile, more media continues to surface as the ban-asbestos movement rolls forward. The Intercept released a story detailing how incarcerated individuals were forced to do a variety of harmful, high-risk jobs, like asbestos abatement, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. This truly horrific practice is yet another reason why asbestos needs to be banned. Allindividuals should have their health and safety protected.
Despite these landmark steps in the regulation of asbestos, we know regulations aren’t enough to fully protect public health. That is why ADAO continually works with Congress and the White House to move ban-asbestos legislation forward.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (ARBAN) is the most comprehensive asbestos ban bill put before Congress in 30 years and, upon passage, will help end the nearly 40,000 American asbestos-caused deaths that occur each year. Importantly, ARBAN will ban all six fibers of asbestos and transition chlor-alkali plants to non-asbestos technology.
Over the years, ARBAN has garnered bipartisan support, nearly passing out of its Senate committee in 2019 with a resounding 47-1 vote. In May 2022, ARBAN was reintroduced and again championed by Senator Merkley and Representative Bonamici. During a legislative hearing that followed in June, ADAO joined the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and other advocates to present the very real dangers of continued asbestos exposure.
Upon ARBAN’s introduction last year, Senator Merkley released a video message reminding us all that “most of the developed world, some 60 nations in total have banned [asbestos], banned its use, banned its importation but the United States has failed to act.” In regards to EPA’s potential ban of one type of asbestos fiber and its six conditions of use, Merkley simply stated, “That’s not good enough. Now is the time to end importation.”
We know well, the time to end asbestos imports and use is now. ADAO is calling on advocates, agencies, and Congress alike to step forward and ban asbestos once and for all.