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(WASHINGTON, DC) – Sen. Patty Murray today introduced legislation to ban asbestos in the United States.

Although a known carcinogen and outlawed in most of the civilized world, asbestos continues to be put into consumer products like roofing shingles, brake pads and gaskets in the U.S.

Murray's bill would also require the EPA to identify which consumer products contain asbestos and then educate the public on its findings. The bill would also commit additional resources to the research of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs and internal organs caused by asbestos exposure.

"Asbestos is still not banned and it is still not safe," said Murray. "Today men and women are dying because they handled asbestos or were exposed to products which contain asbestos. Some of those products still contain asbestos. While other countries have banned asbestos and protected their citizens, the United State has not and that's why we're introducing this bill."

Murray continued, "In Libby, Montana, asbestos ended up in products by accident, but asbestos is still being used in products on purpose. Now it's time for the U.S. to ban asbestos once and for all."

Murray's bill would:
  • Ban the 6 regulated forms of asbestos, which is what the EPA attempted to do in 1989.

  • Require a study on asbestos-containing products and contaminant-asbestos products to determine which products currently entering the product stream contain asbestos, either on purpose or as a contaminant. The legislation directs the EPA Administrator to conduct a study on the status of asbestos-containing products, such as roofing materials, brake pads, and gaskets, which contain asbestos on purpose. EPA must also study contaminant-asbestos products, such as some insulation and horticultural products, which contain asbestos as a contaminant of another substance. The study will examine how people use these products still entering commerce and whether people are being exposed to harmful levels of asbestos.

  • Require additional research on diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, and to begin a national registry of mesothelioma to improve tracking of the disease nationally.

  • Require a public education campaign to increase awareness of the dangers posed by asbestos-containing products (brake pads, roofing shingles) and contaminant-asbestos products (some fertilizers, insulation). The EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission would also be required to conduct a national education campaign about vermiculite insulation to inform the public about dangers and appropriate methods of dealing with this asbestos-contaminated insulation.

  • Requires the EPA to Convene a Blue Ribbon Panel to review the current state of the science on the human health effects of exposure to asbestos and nonregulated minerals. It will also review the current laws and rules in place to protect workers and consumers, and make recommendations for improving protections. In addition, the Panel will address the need for uniform asbestos standards and protocols for detecting and measuring asbestos across federal agencies. Currently, asbestos is regulated under at least 11 different laws. The EPA's Inspector General cited split jurisdiction and multiple standards as one of the reasons the EPA didn't do a better job of protecting the people of Libby.

Also appearing at Murray's press conference were:

Susan Vento, whose husband, former U.S. Representative Bruce Vento was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, in January of 2000 and died in October.

Lt. Col. James Zumwalt, whose father, the legendary Navy Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, died of mesothelioma, the result of exposure to asbestos decades earlier.

Brian Harvey, a Marysville, Washington survivor of mesothelioma, who pursued an aggressive treatment at the University of Washington that included radiation, chemotherapy and surgery that cost him his left lung.

"According to the EPA, 27 million Americans had significant asbestos exposure on the job between 1940 and 1980. I want to ensure our government does all it can to minimize future suffering and death caused by this deadly material," said Murray.