Senate Unanimously Passes Total Asbestos Ban

A complete U.S. ban on production, manufacture, and distribution of asbestos is suddenly within sight, after the U.S. Senate's unanimous approval Oct. 4 of S. 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007. Senators speaking before the vote warmly congratulated Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., for more than six years of dogged work on the issue. She started, Murray recalled Oct. 4, with a promise to two men dying of mesothelioma -- Fred Biekkola and Brian Harvey. "I told them I would stand with them every step of the way until this bill was passed, sent to the president, and signed into law," Murray said. "I lost both Brian and Fred, because they died of mesothelioma. But I have met many others along the way, too. . . . Because of the Freds and the Brians and the many other people I have met, and my great colleagues on the floor of the Senate, today we are making a difference. We are well on our way to banning the use of asbestos."

S. 742 would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act; establish a national mesothelioma registry within one year that is set up by CDC, NIOSH, and ATSDR; and start a public information campaign about the hazards of asbestos-containing materials. Forty countries worldwide have similar bans in place.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., was a key ally for Murray. "The EPA initially proposed a ban of most asbestos-containing materials in the late 1970s," he said in an Oct. 4 speech. "The rule was not finalized until 1989. Only 2 years later, however, the Fifth Circuit struck down the rule, finding that the EPA had 'failed to muster substantial evidence' in support of the ban. Today, the U.S. consumes about 2,000 tons of asbestos yearly, down from almost 800,000 tons consumed in the mid-1970s. Our bill will establish a permanent ban of asbestos that will be enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill also mandates the most thorough Government study of asbestos to date. The study will ensure the best experts from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the National Academy of Sciences, and the EPA examine all aspects of asbestos, including its natural properties, its geographic distribution across the United States, and its effects on the human body."

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