Asbestos Ban

Until there is global asbestos ban, this toxic substance will continue to harm people for generations to come

The dangers associated with asbestos have been known since the first century AD, when Greeks and Romans first observed that slaves involved in the weaving of asbestos cloth were afflicted with a sickness of the lungs[1]. Pliny the Elder, the Roman historian in the 1st century, noticed that slaves who worked in asbestos mines were less healthy than others. Pliny noticed that the asbestos caused, primarily, a respiratory disease and suggested that slaves use a respirator made of transparent bladder skin to protect themselves from the dust[2].

Fast forward 2000 years.

Despite the fact that countless millions have died from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, there is still no outright ban on asbestos, contrary to popular belief.

In 1989 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule which was subsequently overturned in 1991 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans[3]. This ruling leaves many consumer products that can still legally contain trace amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos products currently banned in the U.S.

  • corrugated paper
  • rollboard
  • commercial paper
  • specialty paper
  • flooring felt
  • new uses of asbestos

Asbestos products not banned in the U.S.

  • asbestos-cement corrugated sheet
  • asbestos-cement flat sheet
  • asbestos clothing
  • pipeline wrap
  • roofing felt
  • vinyl-asbestos floor tile
  • asbestos-cement shingle
  • millboard
  • asbestos-cement pipe
  • automatic transmission components
  • clutch facings
  • friction materials,
  • disc brake pads
  • drum brake linings
  • brake blocks
  • gaskets
  • non-roofing coatings
  • roof coatings

For a clarification of products which legally contain asbestos read the EPA Asbestos Materials Bans: Clarification.

Six years ago, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) first introduced her proposed legislation to ban asbestos and invest federal funding in the research critically needed to develop effective treatments for the vicious cancer, mesothelioma, and other asbestos related diseases.

Finally, in 2007, the bill is seeing some real progress and a hope of passing both houses of Congress.

On March 1, 2007, Sen. Murray introduced S. 742: Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007 to the 110th Congress. This is an act to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce the health risks posed by asbestos-containing materials and products having asbestos-containing material, and for other purposes. The bill is an effort to ban all production and use of asbestos in America, launch public education campaigns to raise awareness about its dangers and expand research and treatment of diseases cause by asbestos.

The bill passed in the Senate on Oct. 4, 2007 by Unanimous Consent. The Ban Asbestos in America Act includes $10 million per year in funding for cancer research.

On the House side, U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) authored the House companion to Sen. Murray’s bill, called the Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act of 2007 (H.R. 3339). Congresswoman McCollum was elected to the seat previously held by the late Congressman Bruce Vento, who died of mesothelioma in October 2000 in his 12th term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota. She saw first-hand the tragic effects of mesothelioma and is passionate about this bill.

The Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C Committee) has taken the lead on the legislation. In its draft, known as the Committee Print, the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee has carried forward Senator Murray’s work on the ban, eliminating an exception for asbestos present at 1 percent or less by weight, making the ban a matter of federal statute rather than EPA regulation, and adding enforcement provisions.

As of now, the critically needed medical research funding provisions from Senator Murray’s and Congresswoman McCollum’s legislation have not yet been added to the Committee Print.

The bill currently is in committee with the House Subcommittee on Health.