Posted on June 2, 2022

According to the new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, “Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality in Women — United States, 1999–2020”, there was a 25 percent increase in the annual number of mesothelioma deaths over the past two decades. 

The researchers studied annual Multiple Cause of Death records from the National Vital Statistics System for 1999 to 2020 to determine this upward trend in mesothelioma mortality among women in the United States.

Asbestos, once seen as the “magic mineral,” was utilized during the twentieth century in many industries, including construction, fireproofing, insulation, petrochemical, automotive, and ship building. However, we have known since the 1960s that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, now a known carcinogen. Nearly 40,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-caused diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries. The study by Jacek Mazurek, MD, of the CDC, and colleagues, shows that from 1999 to 2020, mesothelioma deaths among women rose from 489 to 614, with a large number of these deaths linked to homemakers — 23 percent — and healthcare and social assistance — 16 percent. 

According to the study, “Among 21 industry groups, the three with the most deaths were health care and social assistance (89; 15.7%); education services (64; 11.3%); and manufacturing (50; 8.8%).”

We need to ban asbestos now. In the first quarter of 2022, raw asbestos imports into the country exceeded the total amount of asbestos imported in 2021, 114 metric ton and 100 metric tons respectively. There is also the threat of legacy asbestos, which can be found in millions of homes, schools, and workplaces nationwide. This is a public health crisis and a manmade disaster. 

Last week, Senator Jeff Merkley and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici introduced the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now (ARBAN) Act of 2022. This lifesaving legislation is the most comprehensive bill put before Congress in over 30 years, and builds on landmark decisions and discussions from year’s past.

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (S. 4244, H.R. 7810) is comprehensive legislation that will:

  • 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.

In the article “Invited Perspective: Eliminating Toxics to Prevent Disease: Asbestos Leads the Way” by David Kriebel and Douglas J. Myers they opined, “Countries that have consumed more asbestos have historically had higher mortality rates from asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) than countries with lower asbestos consumption … we agree with the urgent need to stop producing and using asbestos.”

They continue, “The takeaway message here is one taught in every basic class in occupational health: The best way to control a hazard is to eliminate it. No matter how well designed, devices and practices aimed at reducing human exposures to chemicals during their use are never fully effective. Control technologies sooner or later will drift into failure through neglect or cost cutting and are thus, over the long term, an entirely unproductive cost on a firm’s balance sheet.”

We agree: Asbestos must be banned now to start saving lives today. We urge Congress to quickly pass ARBAN and protect the health and wellness of Americans everywhere.

Linda Reinstein