Today – standing with Senators, activists, and victims of asbestos – I’m proud to reintroduce important legislation that will finally protect Americans from the dangers of asbestos.
Today, along with Senators Jeffords, Leahy, Cantwell, Boxer, Baucus and Dayton, I am reintroducing the Ban Asbestos in America Act.
This morning we’re joined by Lt. Colonel Jim Zumwalt, who is here in memory of his father – the late Admiral Elmo Zumwalt – who died from Mesothelioma – an asbestos-related cancer – in 2000. Colonel, I’m honored that you are here once again in memory of your father, who was a legendary military leader and dedicated public servant.
I would also like to thank Chris Hahn and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation for the valuable input they have provided on this bill.
We’re all here today to make sure that all Americans know that asbestos is still not banned and it is still not safe.
Like most Americans I thought asbestos had already been banned.
In 1989, the EPA did try to ban it, but that effort was overturned in a lawsuit from the asbestos industry. Ten years later – in 1999 – reporter Andrew Schneider and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published articles about a disturbing trend in the small mining town of Libby, Montana. Residents there are suffering from high rates of asbestos related diseases.
As I learned more about Libby, and how asbestos has ended up in products by accident, I was shocked to learn that asbestos is still being used in products on purpose. In fact, in 2001, the U.S. consumed 13,000 metric tons of it! Asbestos is still used in products like gaskets, roofing supplies and brakes.
Earlier this week, the EPA released the results of a landmark study it commissioned, which calls for a ban on the production, manufacture, and distribution of asbestos in the U.S.
And just yesterday the EPA announced a new public education campaign to warn homeowners of the dangers of asbestos-tainted attic insulation. As many as 35 million homes, schools and businesses may contain the potentially deadly insulation.
While more than 30 other countries have banned asbestos and protected their citizens, the United States still has not.
The time for the United States to ban asbestos is long overdue. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an estimated 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry still face significant asbestos exposure on the job. I want to ensure that our government does all it can to minimize future suffering and death caused by this deadly material.
That is why today we are reintroducing the Ban Asbestos in America Act.
My legislation does four things:
First, this bill protects the public by requiring the EPA to ban asbestos within two years.
Second, the bill requires EPA to conduct a public education campaign about the risks of asbestos products. We need to warn people that products in their homes and in their workplaces, such as roofing shingles and brakes, may still contain asbestos.
I applaud EPA’s announcement yesterday of a public education campaign on vermiculite attic insulation. Administrator Whitman was a voice of reason on this subject and I thank her for all of her hard work to protect the public from this deadly substance.
The legislation also requires EPA to conduct a survey to determine which foreign and domestic products consumed in the United States today have been made with asbestos. EPA has estimated that at one time, as many as 3,000 products were made with asbestos. Our bill also bans the importation of products such as asbestos cement pipes.
Third, the legislation invests in research, tracking and treatment of asbestos diseases. It requires the creation of a registry to track Mesothelioma. It also authorizes funding for 10 treatment centers nationwide to improve treatments for and awareness of this fatal cancer.
Finally, the bill calls for the National Academy of Sciences, along with the EPA’s Blue Ribbon Panel, to study issues beyond the six regulated forms of asbestos.
Over the years, asbestos has taken a staggering toll on our country. Today we will have the honor of hearing from Lt. Colonel James Zumwalt, and of learning about how asbestos has affected his life in a very personal way.
While we mourn the loss of Colonel Zumwalt’s father, the more than 200 Libby victims, and thousands of others across the country, today our message is one of hope.
I hope that by continuing to work together – and through the positive steps we’ve seen by the EPA in the past few days – we will build support for the Ban Asbestos in America Act and we will get this important bill passed this year.