Posted on June 8, 2022
To watch the hearing on June 9 at 10 am ET – click here.
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was honored to testify today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works during the “Ban Asbestos Now: Taking Action To Save Lives And Livelihoods” Hearing.
This legislative hearing is a landmark step forward for the bicameral Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now (ARBAN) Act of 2022 and proves once again that there is bicameral support for an asbestos ban. We have lost over one million Americans since 1991, the last time our government tried to ban asbestos, but failed. Yet we have known since the 1960s that asbestos is a deadly carcinogen that causes illnesses including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries.
- Prohibit the importation and commercial use of all six asbestos fibers (chrysotile, crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite as well as Libby Amphibole, winchite, and richerite.
- Transition plants in the chlor-alkali industry using asbestos diaphragms to non-asbestos technology within two years.
- Establish mandatory asbestos reporting obligations for companies importing and using asbestos.
- Develop an educational outreach program to support full compliance with ARBAN.
Nearly 70 other countries have banned asbestos. Asbestos is the most hazardous substance in widespread use since the industrial revolution. The United States is the last industrialized nation to outlaw imports and use of the known carcinogen. Since the EPA tried to ban asbestos in 1989, more than 410,000 metric tons of raw asbestos have been imported. And a ban is needed now more than ever before; in the first quarter of 2022, raw asbestos imports into the country exceeded the total amount of asbestos imported in 2021, 114 metric tons and 100 metric tons respectively.
The chlor-alkali industry is the only industry that continues to import and use asbestos. The eight remaining chlor-alkali plants using asbestos diaphragms range in age from 40 to 123 years old and none have increased use of asbestos diaphragms in approximately 17 years. The use of asbestos diaphragms has been declining and these remaining plants only account for about one-third of the chlor-alkali production in the country. The industry’s dependence on asbestos is simply outdated and unnecessary. It is not about if the chlor-alkali should transition from asbestos diaphragms to an alternative process, but when.
Alternatives to asbestos-containing diaphragms for chlor-alkali plants exist, and the use of alternatives, specifically membrane cells, accounts for almost half of the country’s chlor-alkali production. It is clear that alternative methods exist and are efficient.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that asbestos use by this industry presents an unreasonable risk to the health of workers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked hard to evaluate the risk of asbestos, but we need legislation, not regulation. We already know that no level of exposure to asbestos is safe. As an act of Congress, ARBAN will also avoid time-consuming and unproductive litigation over the Environmental Protection Agency’s pending rulemaking and prevent delays in protecting Americans at risk from asbestos exposure. We need Congress to move forward with this life-saving bill.
The economic cost of inaction has been and remains immense. According to a WHO report “Asbestos Economic Assessment of Bans and Declining Production and Consumption,” the “substantial costs associated with the continued use of asbestos potentially outweigh any other economic benefit. The annual global health care costs associated with the health effects of asbestos are estimated to be $2.4–3.9 billion USD, excluding the additional costs of pain, suffering and welfare losses.” When it comes to banning asbestos, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
In addition to ADAO, early ARBAN supporters include: American Public Health Association (APHA), International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), Environmental Protection Network (EPN), Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF), United States Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Environmental Working Group (EWG), Collegium Ramazzini, Environmental Information Association (EIA), Hazards Campaign (UK), Less Cancer, and Brazilian Association of People Exposed to Asbestos (ABREA).
ADAO hopes that this hearing was the first step towards getting this bill to President Biden’s desk and finally getting it signed into law.