A Ban in Name Only

The “non-ban asbestos ban” continues to confound critics. No one is disputing the dangers of exposure to the carcinogen. Asbestos-related diseases kill 15,000 Americans annually. The not-so-grand total dating back to 1989 is one million. Ironically, that was the year of a failed ban on asbestos by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

How have federal officials responded?

In the last year alone, the U.S. has imported 750 metric tons of asbestos.

The EPA implemented a new rule to strengthen protection to the public. However, it did not go far enough. Asbestos imports continue in the face of 60 other countries having outright bans of the substance.

The latest effort revolves around the recently introduced Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019. Named after a victim of asbestos exposure and approved by his widow, it would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and serve as an outright prohibition in the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of commercial asbestos and related products.

If enacted, mandates would be placed upon the EPA, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Labor Department to evaluate both the presence of asbestos in all types of buildings and exposure levels and health risks to the individuals in those structures.

However, the powerful forces who stopped the ban nearly 30 years ago remain opposed. The defacto alliance between the EPA and major corporations will continue as will their rhetoric surrounding adverse financial impacts on businesses and the lack of a safe and effective replacement.

Meanwhile, as months and years go by, thousands more will die due to the ongoing resistance and the complete lack of action.

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