New Bill in Congress to Ban Asbestos
Right now, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley introduced a bill called the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2017. This is the sixth attempt at banning the dangerous substance in the past 20 years. Last year, there was an act to formulate a risk review, but this new piece of legislation would speed up that study.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies six types of asbestos minerals: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. Although all commercial forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, there are differences in their chemical compositions.
Asbestos once filled countless U.S. homes and businesses in the form of insulation and heat-protecting materials. Throughout the construction boom following WWII, asbestos was a key element in thousands of industrial and household products, including drywall, wiring, glues, and adhesives, ceiling tiles, cement, and shingles.
Some of these asbestos products remain in old structures and are usually harmless. This is as long as no one disturbs the substance. Workers usually were exposed to the harmful natural mineral while on the job, but others, including their family members, also faced secondary exposures at home and environmental exposures in communities that mined or processed asbestos.
Occupations that are at high risk for exposure in older buildings include firefighters, contractors, demolition workers, electricians, and plumbers.
About the Bill
Besides being the first bill to effectively ban asbestos, this bill would also impose stricter restrictions on the dangerous product. Plus, the EPA would need to make it known all the uses and any current exposure sites.
According to a U.S. Geological Survey, companies imported 340 tons of raw asbestos in 2016. In 1973 before the public knew of the danger, the U.S. consumed over 800,000 tons. Roofing and automotive supplies have the highest asbestos levels.
Passing this bill won’t be easy. The Senate needs to pass it before traveling to the House of Representatives. Lastly, the President needs to approve it. Since Senator Merkley, who is proposing the bill is a Democrat, he may not receive bipartisan support.
10,000 people die every year as a result of asbestos exposure. So, a bill like this is imperative to keep people safe.
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