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Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have introduced the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016 to the Senate. The act would expedite a ban on asbestos imports, as well as both current and future uses of the hazardous substance.
With the Alan Reinstein Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be able to make the manufacture, processing, use, commercial distribution, and disposal of asbestos illegal after 18 months of its passing.
This act follows the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that passed this summer. The Lautenberg Act is an overhaul to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which hadn’t been overhauled since 1976 when it was originally approved. Industry officials and public health activists agreed the law wasn’t effective being 40 years old and overseeing thousands of chemicals.
“The [Lautenberg] bill is a clear improvement over the current TSCA and represents a historic advancement for both chemical safety and environmental law,” said the White House in a statement.
The Lautenberg Act requires the EPA to evaluate new and existing chemicals against a higher safety standard than before. It also proposes clear and enforceable deadlines for the EPA to act. It limits the number of unwarranted claims of confidentiality that can be made by chemical companies. And it includes funding for the EPA to carry out the new measures.
A drawback of the Lautenberg Act is that it gives the EPA as long as 12 years to assess and regulate asbestos. The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016 would allow for the same actions, but in a much smaller amount of time.
“While we encourage Congress to support Senator Boxer’s bill, we continue to urge the EPA to prioritize asbestos in its first 10 high-risk chemicals evaluated under LCSA, ensuring swift regulation of this lethal toxin,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and widow to the bill’s namesake.
“America can’t afford to wait seven to twelve more years to end the man-made asbestos disaster,” said Reinstein.
There are a number of other asbestos regulations and laws in place and this new act isn’t the first attempt to expedite a ban on asbestos. Senator Boxer introduced a different bill named after Reinstein’s late husband in 2015. It did not pass.
“Please join me in thanking Senators Boxer and Tester, and in urging Congress to take this opportunity to show true dedication to protecting public health and our environment,” said Reinstein.
Photo by Earl Dotter, courtesy of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).