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Merkley, Bonamici, Pallone, Slotkin Introduce Bill to Ban Asbestos Now

March 7, 2019
Press Release


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, along with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), today introduced the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019, legislation that would ban the mining, importation, use, and distribution in commerce of asbestos, a known carcinogen, and any asbestos-containing mixtures in the United States of America.


“It’s outrageous that in the year 2019, asbestos is still allowed in the United States,” said Senator Jeff Merkley. “While the EPA fiddles, Americans are dying. It’s time for us to catch up to the rest of the developed world, and ban this dangerous public health threat once and for all.”


“Asbestos causes disease and death, and we must protect families and communities from this known carcinogen,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “It is unacceptable that Oregonians and thousands of people across the U.S. continue to die from asbestos-related diseases each year. I am proud to introduce the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, legislation to ban the importation, manufacture, and distribution of asbestos. I thank my colleagues, Senator Jeff Merkley and Chairman Frank Pallone, and look forward to continuing working with them to advance this lifesaving bill.”


“It has been 40 years since EPA began the process of banning asbestos, yet this dangerous chemical is still being imported and used all across the country – and people are still falling ill and dying from exposure. American communities and American workers can’t wait any longer for EPA to act,” said Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. “It’s time to put public health first, pass this bill and ban this toxic substance for good.”


“We need to treat environmental security like homeland security – and the fact that the use and purchase of asbestos is not banned by the EPA is a threat to our families’ and kids’ safety and health,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin. “I’m proud to lead this bill that would ensure this toxic chemical stays out of our homes and our communities.”


The bill is named after Alan Reinstein, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 66 from mesothelioma, a disease caused by exposure to asbestos. Alan’s wife, Linda, co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) in 2004.


“ADAO is thankful to Sen. Merkley, Congresswoman Bonamici, Chairman Pallone, Congresswoman Slotkin and the many original cosponsors for their leadership and dedication to public health,” said Linda Reinstein. “ARBAN will take long-overdue action to stop hundreds of tons of raw asbestos imports and asbestos containing products from entering the U.S. It will protect all Americans — workers, consumers, and children — from being exposed to this deadly threat. With the passage of ARBAN, we will finally join over 60 countries who put public health over corporate profit and banned asbestos.”


Asbestos is still legal in the United States, even though it has been banned in more than 60 other developed countries. Asbestos in all forms is known to be a leading cause of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other chronic respiratory diseases.


Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) included asbestos on its list of the first ten chemicals for risk reviews under the 2016 revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA’s safety assessment must be completed before EPA can consider any controls on asbestos, and the EPA is not required to ban it.


Despite the bipartisan spirit of the historic 2016 agreement to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, President Trump and his handpicked leadership at the EPA have made clear that they will not prioritize taking dangerous chemicals off of the market.


Specifically, today’s legislation would:

  • Amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to direct EPA, within one year after the date of enactment of the bill, to ban the manufacturing, processing, use, and distribution in commerce of asbestos and any mixture or article containing asbestos.
    • There is an exemption for national security purposes, but only for a three-year period with one three-year extension allowed.
  • Require within 120 days of enactment any person or entity that has manufactured, processed, or distributed in commerce asbestos or any mixture containing asbestos in the last three years to submit to the EPA a detailed report regarding the description of the activity; the quantity, quality, and concentration of asbestos; and reasonable estimates of the number of individuals that have been or will be exposed to asbestos due to the activity.
  • Require EPA to consult with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor to submit to Congress within 18 months a report assessing the legacy presence of asbestos in residential, commercial, industrial, public, and school buildings, and the extent of exposure and risk to human health associated with the asbestos present in those buildings.


In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). In the House, it is cosponsored by Reps. Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Darren Soto (D-FL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY). The bill is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and Less Cancer.