Linda Reinstein, the CEO and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, offered the message of hope.
She said the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, the legislation the mesothelioma and asbestos disease community is championing, still has legs — either in its current form or as a revamped bill.
“It is alive and well,” she said in a Zoom conversation last week with health and asbestos experts. “We, with Bob, work to write the most comprehensive ban.”
Bob is Bob Sussman, ADAO’s legal counsel. He was one of a five-person panel, along with Linda Reinstein and ADAO Science Advisory Board members:
- Dr. Barry Castleman
- Dr. Richard Lemen
- Dr. Arthur Frank
Each is an expert in either medical or industrial topics related to asbestos and mesothelioma. Some are experts in both areas.
The message comes as the ADAO applauded the U.S. Senate for establishing “National Asbestos Awareness Week” for April 1-7. However, this act by legislators is toothless without a ban in the near future. The ADAO has hosted “Global Asbestos Awareness Week” from April 1-7 every year since 2005.
Asbestos is the only cause of mesothelioma, a disease that killed Alan Reinstein, Linda’s husband. Mesothelioma kills around 3,000 Americans each year, and thousands more are affected by other asbestos diseases like asbestosis (scarring of lung tissue) and lung cancer.
Each person in the conversation encouraged Congress to pass the bill within the next two years, before the next election could alter the makeup of Congress.
“I hope you’ll stand up and take notice that asbestos is being banned around the world,” Dr. Lemen said.
Where the U.S. Stands Now With Asbestos
The United States is one of just a few advanced first-world countries without a ban on asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency attempted to ban the cancerous mineral in 1989 but failed.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act would do exactly as its name indicates: ban asbestos. The bill would make the sale, use, manufacturing and importation of asbestos illegal in the United States.
The legislation had momentum, slated for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in September of 2020. However, the bill was yanked from the House agenda at the 11th hour due to disagreements about specific language. One source claims the bill stalled due to a dispute regarding asbestos in talc.
The bill was introduced two years ago. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 47-1 in November 2019 to send the bill to the House floor.
In the ADAO Zoom conversation, Dr. Castleman explained when and where the push to ban asbestos started.
“The bans on asbestos were really led by Sweden,” he said, noting the country pressed companies to substitute asbestos in brake linings in automobiles.
This occurred in the 1980s, and Scandanavian countries followed. Germany, Italy and France all banned asbestos by the 20th century’s closure.
“The use of asbestos in manufacturing has stopped in the United States in the last 10 years,” he said, while noting the chlorine industry still uses the dangerous mineral.
“The chlorine industry is the sole importer of asbestos in the United States,” Linda Reinstein added.
The EPA recently interpreted the Toxic Substances Control Act so it “didn’t apply to legacy asbestos,” he said. Legacy asbestos is the most dangerous form of the mineral today. Legacy asbestos refers to its presence in old buildings, automobiles, military ships and other applications from the 20th century.
The proposed ban would also improve testing and data collection, along with adding other measures to prevent exposure. With a renewed push of the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, the panelists hope 2021 or 2022 could be the year the U.S. finally catches up to other countries.
“We have a lot of support from many different stakeholders on the Hill,” Dr. Sussman said. “I truly hope this push is going to be a little better than the one from the last Congress and get the ball past the finish line.”
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