Many Americans wrongly assume that the United States has banned asbestos. Unfortunately, it is only banned for some uses and in some products. According to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, on October 23, 2017, 61 countries have national asbestos bans.
Notably missing from the list are major countries like Russia, China, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Ukraine and India. In 2016, Canada announced an intention to ban the mineral by 2018.
The Proposed Legislation
Earlier this month, seven U.S. Senators introduced the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2017, S. 2072, that would create a brisk schedule toward a national ban here at home. The main sponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., was joined by five other Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. It was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Problem with the Lautenberg Act
As we recently wrote, asbestos is one of the first 10 substances scheduled for evaluation for risk of danger to humans and the environment by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. We also described how President Trump’s EPA is backing away from meaningful chemical review by narrowing the evaluation of risk to only currently manufactured products.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., one of the new bill’s sponsors, issued a press release in which she said that Trump’s nomination of Michael Dourson to lead the agency’s chemical safety division shows an intention to “blow up” the Lautenberg Act’s meaningful implementation. Dourson is a scientist who has been employed in the chemical industry and who asserts that risky chemicals are safer than “independent scientists” have found, according to the press release.
The Bill’s Proposed Scheme
Feinstein states that because of this EPA development, Congress must act to ban asbestos. The main provisions of the proposed bill include:
- Within 90 days, the EPA would be required to identify and assess importation, distribution, use and exposure to asbestos.
- Within 18 months of enactment, the EPA would have to issue a rule to “eliminate human or environmental exposure to asbestos” permanently through restrictions on manufacturing, processing, use, distribution and disposal of the mineral and of products containing asbestos.
- The rule’s effective date would have to be within a year of its issuance.
- A narrowly defined presidential exemption for national security is included.