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(Washington, D.C.) – Today at a Senate Budget Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Patty Murray asked Robert Portman, the President's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to examine why the agency has delayed the release of safety rules to protect American workers and consumers.

For years, Murray has been frustrated that the Bush Administration has not released an update to the EPA's 1986 "Gold Book," which provides critical safety guidance for workers who come into daily contact with asbestos. News reports indicate that imports of brake materials containing asbestos have increased 83 percent in the past decade, putting thousands of workers and their families at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers.

In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has failed to release a long-awaited fact sheet that provides specific instructions to help protect brake mechanics who handle asbestos-laden brake products.

Murray, who worked with Ambassador Portman in his previous role as United States Trade Representative, asked the nominee to look into the issue and get to back her.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

"For the past five years, I've been working to try and ban the production and importation of asbestos into this country. We still allow asbestos to be used in many products, and we're now looking at billions of dollars in federal liability to bail out that industry.

OSHA and EPA have been working really hard to implement some workplace safety and indoor air quality standards to reduce the exposure to asbestos, and their efforts have been hindered so far by OMB. They are trying to deal with this very serious public health threat, and I would like you to get back to me if you could, if you could look into this issue and let me know what is holding up the publication of the OSHA fact sheet at EPA? I understand that is being held up at OMB. It is a critical health issue in this country and I want to find out if you can provide me with information on when EPA will be sending their brake mechanic guidance around for review. So if you and your staff could get back to us on that, I would really appreciate it. It's a serious health issue in this country."

Ambassador Portman replied, "Thank you, Senator. If confirmed, I look forward to working on that with you too."

Murray's past efforts to spur the release of safety guidance includes writing to EPA and OSHA officials and questioning the OSHA nominee.


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