Update:The U.S. House of Representatives on April 27 introduced a companion bill to the U.S. Senate proposal.
Despite the almost 10,000 lives a year claimed by asbestos-related diseases in the U.S., products legally containing asbestos continue to pass through our country’s borders.
Legislation introduced last week will make public where these products are ending up.
U.S. senators Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., sponsored the Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database (READ) Act to amend the Asbestos Information Act of 1988 by establishing a public database of asbestos-containing products.
The Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database (READ) Act will modernize the reporting requirements of the Asbestos Information Act to ensure that Americans have transparent, accessible and up-to-date information about the identities and known locations of asbestos-containing products, Markey’s website shows.
Giselle Barry, press director for Markey, told Asbestos.com the amendment was sent to the Committee on Environment and Public Works and both senators are committed to gaining bipartisan support for it.
Markey and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., last week also introduced the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act which amends the Toxic Substance Control Act. Their bill seeks to ban asbestos in the U.S. and calls for stronger safety standards and quicker safety reviews of chemicals. Alan Reinstein, former president of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), died of mesothelioma in 2006.
Studies show asbestos causes mesothelioma, a rare cancer that affects the thin, protective membrane surrounding the lungs, heart or abdominal cavity. Doctors diagnose nearly 3,000 cases annually.
Asbestos Still Used in Everyday Products
The toxic mineral is still used in building materials, including roofing and flooring, as well as car parts involved in brake systems and automatic transmission parts.
While asbestos is banned in many countries, it is still legal in the U.S. and often imported in overseas products, despite being a carcinogen. The World Health Organization reports occupational asbestos exposure is responsible for more than 107,000 deaths annually worldwide.
“For more than a century, asbestos exposure has been known to cause debilitating diseases and deaths. Worse yet, most Americans cannot identify asbestos or manage the risk,” wrote ADAO President Linda Reinstein in a press release. “Undoubtedly, the READ Act will save lives and dollars. One life lost from a preventable asbestos-caused disease is tragic, hundreds of thousand is unconscionable.
Linda Reinstein is Alan Reinstein’s widow.
“Alan represents past, present and future asbestos victims and their families horrifically impacted by asbestos,” Reinstein said.
This new legislation is a much-needed amendment to the 27-year-old asbestos law signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 requiring manufacturers and processors of asbestos-containing materials to report information about their products to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Originally, the law required them to publish the information in the Federal Register, which was not easily accessible to most Americans. The amended legislation requires detailed reporting and tracking of all asbestos-related products and their final destination and application to be disclosed on a public website.
Making Asbestos-Containing Products Public
While the legislation is still pending, passage of the bill will mean asbestos-containing products and their whereabouts can no longer hide outside the public eye.
Anyone concerned about whether their workplace, school, or a product they are using might be affected can check the database and take the appropriate action.
The amendment also calls for a public awareness campaign to announce when the database is operational.