Posted on June 9, 2023

History is a great teacher for those who listen.

It was just one year ago today that the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) had the privilege of testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works during the Legislative Hearing on S. 4244, also known as the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2022. This significant hearing, held on June 9, 2022, marked a significant step forward in the ongoing efforts to ban asbestos in the United States.

Since that pivotal hearing in 2022, exactly one year ago, two major chlor-alkali companies, Olin Corporation and Westlake Chemical Corporation, have completely ceased importing asbestos. This action has left Oxy Chem (Occidental Petroleum Corporation) as the sole importer of asbestos in the past year. ADAO and other public health advocates are encouraged by the actions of these two companies and their perceived willingness to prioritize protecting American lives.

During the hearing, multiple witnesses passionately advocated for the swift ban of asbestos, drawing from personal experiences and well-researched evidence. Dr. Danny Whu, Chief Medical Officer of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), emphasized that it is imperative to safeguard firefighters and their families from the perils of asbestos. Dr. Whu highlighted the destructive capabilities of this hazardous substance once it enters the human body. His testimony concluded powerfully, stressing our obligation to ban asbestos and protect the lives of the brave firefighters who selflessly save American lives every day 

“Firefighters are willing to lay their lives down, not for friends, but for total strangers. We owe it to them and their families to ban their killers, like asbestos, now.” – Dr. Danny Whu, Chief Medical Officer, International Association of Fire Fighters

During my testimony at the hearing, I presented three indisputable facts: 

  1. All forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans
  2. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure
  3. There is no controlled use of asbestos. 

I also underscored that while the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a landmark step forward in asbestos prevention with the proposed Part 1 Chrysotile Asbestos Rule, it only bans one fiber in six conditions of use.

The only industry opposition during the hearing revolved around the time needed to transition to non-asbestos technology, the associated costs, and the possible reduction in chlorine production. However, these concerns pale compared to the costs borne by workers, their families, and communities that have cared for or buried loved ones who suffered from preventable asbestos-caused diseases.

Armed with the facts and momentum, in March 2023, The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now (ARBAN) Act of 2023, was introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Suzanne Bonamici. Together with our allies, we look forward to advancing ARBAN and bringing it to President Biden’s desk to be enacted into law.

In unity,

Linda Reinstein