There are 55 countries with asbestos bans, largely because of the substance’s harmful effects and link to mesothelioma. Some lawmakers hope the United States soon joins the list.
Members of the House of Representatives and Senate introduced a bill earlier this month that would ban the mining, importation, sale and use of asbestos in the country. Nine senators and 21 representatives sponsored the legislation.
The bill, titled House Resolution 5114, would alter the Toxic Substances Control Act to prevent “the manufacture, processing, use, distribution in commerce and disposal of asbestos and mixtures and articles containing asbestos.” If passed, the law would be the government’s strongest move yet in protecting residents from severe health risks.
Current Asbestos Regulations
The legislation is the latest government move to restrict or ban asbestos manufacturing, distribution and use. Earlier in 2019, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill that outlaws all asbestos-included products. While the state aims to become the first in the country to enact an asbestos ban, the federal government recently loosened its own restrictions.
If H.R. 5114 becomes law, the resolution would change the Environmental Protection Agency’s current asbestos regulations. The EPA changed its regulations in 2018 to allow the manufacturing of asbestos-included products on a case-by-case basis.
Dr. Richard Lemen, the former deputy director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said that there is increasing enthusiasm in the U.S. for an asbestos ban.
“It’s certainly high time the United States follows the pattern of many other countries and bans this carcinogen,” he said, according to the Montana Standard. “We now know that the number of deaths due to asbestos has been severely underreported in the past.”
The Connection Between Asbestos and Cancer
Instituting a nationwide asbestos ban would be significant progress toward reducing exposure to the toxic substance. However, people should remain aware of the dangers associated with asbestos.
Approximately 3,300 people in the U.S. each year are diagnosed with mesothelioma, and asbestos exposure is the primary cause of the incurable cancer. The bill is named the “Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act” in honor of Alan Reinstein, who died in 2006 from mesothelioma. His wife, Linda Reinstein, is the director of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and a major proponent in a nationwide asbestos ban.
“A ban on asbestos means no family needs to experience the heartbreaking loss of a loved one from asbestos-related disease ever again,” she said to the Montana Standard.
Close to 3,000 Americans die each year from mesothelioma. The consequences of asbestos exposure is a reality that Dr. Raja Flores, the chief of thoracic surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, understands better than most.
As one of the top mesothelioma surgeons in the country, Flores believes the bill is a necessary step in reducing the impact of the rare form of cancer.
“This bill will save more lives than I ever could with my scalpel,” Flores told the newspaper.