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November 17, 2017

Ongoing Legislative Efforts to Ban Asbestos in the United States

In 2016, The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was reformed after the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was signed by President Obama, to enforce a more thorough assessment of harmful chemicals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the new chemical safety act, the EPA is now required to assess all existing chemicals and adhere to strict deadlines before they become available to the consumer.

In late 2016, a list of 10 chemicals was published by the EPA as the first to be evaluated for potential health and environmental risks under this new legislation. Asbestos is among  these 10. Under the newly reformed TSCA, the EPA is required to release a scoping document for each chemical that will include hazards, exposure, conditions of use, and a list of those in the population who can potentially be exposed. If the chemical is found to be dangerous, the EPA is then obligated to take action and reduce risk within two years.

While taking a more critical look at harmful substances such as asbestos is a step forward in progress for deeper regulation and possible ban, the fact remains that asbestos is still legal in the United States and responsible for thousands of deaths throughout the country each year.  In a more cut-throat effort to ban the carcinogen, the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016 was introduced in September 2016, just months after the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was signed. Its purpose was to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and if passed, it would prohibit manufacturing, processing, use, distribution, and disposal of asbestos. Unfortunately, the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016 did not gain enough support and in May of 2017, a house-passed bill potentially caused more setbacks.

The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), which now sits in the Senate, will impose greater restrictions and requirements on the aforementioned agencies by requiring them to conduct more research, analyze more data, and conduct public hearings for major regulations.  The major concerns surrounding this act is that it places too many restrictions, prolonging the overall process of investigating and testing toxic substances in the environment.

On November 2, 2017, a group of senators re-introduced a bill to further amend the TSCA  – the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2017. This new bill would require the EPA to identify, investigate, and research all forms of asbestos and asbestos products. Restrictions would have to be imposed within 18 months to eliminate occupational and environmental exposure, and within one year, discontinue the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of asbestos in the United States. This piece of legislation marks the sixth attempt within the last two decades to ban asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was a popular building material throughout most of the 20th century. Many steelworkers, chemical plant workers, and other tradesmen who worked with asbestos had no knowledge of its harmful effects, and because of the long latency period between the time of exposure and injury, many workers today still do not connect their illness to asbestos exposure.

If you are suffering from lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis, contact the attorneys at Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C. You may be entitled to compensation for your injury as companies and corporations knew the hazards of asbestos exposure but never warned the public of the health risk.

National Safety Council, “Senate Bill Aims to Ban Asbestos,” (November 16, 2017). [Link]

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