Murray's Asbestos Ban Likely in Litigation Reform Bill

Jun 19 2003

Senators Feinstein, Kohl work to add ban to Judiciary Committee Asbestos Litigation Reform proposal; Amendment would outlaw deadly substance in two years

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A ban on putting asbestos into consumer products may soon become part of the asbestos litigation reform proposal, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on Thursday. The positive development came one year to the day after Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) first introduced her legislation to ban asbestos.

Murray and her colleagues, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) had been negotiating with Hatch, to include an outright asbestos ban as part of the litigation reform legislation.

While the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act (S. 1125) would prevent any future asbestos victim from seeking a legal remedy in the courts, the bill was strangely silent on the fact that thousands of tons of asbestos continue to be put into American consumer products every year. For weeks, Sen. Murray had been calling this oversight "the elephant in the room" for the litigation reform.

At a hearing today, Senator Hatch said that when the mark-up continues on Tuesday, he would offer an amendment banning the use of asbestos in most consumer products, but allowing continued use in roofing materials and in the manufacture of chlorine. His amendment also allows the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration exemptions from the ban.

Sen. Hatch also said he would accept an amendment by Senators Feinstein and Kohl to strengthen the proposed ban. The Feinstein-Kohl amendment would require an EPA study of the health hazards of allowing asbestos in roofing products. The study must be completed within 18 months, six months before the ban would take effect. Based on the results of the study, EPA would have the authority to ban asbestos in roofing products.

The Feinstein-Kohl amendment will also require the Secretary of Defense and NASA Administrator to certify that the agencies' use of asbestos meets several specific criteria.

Senator Murray said today, "Most people believe asbestos is already banned. We need to turn this myth into reality to ensure we stop creating new asbestos victims. I am pleased by the progress we have made, and look forward to taking the next step on Tuesday."

Senator Murray continued, "I greatly appreciate the efforts of Senators Feinstein and Kohl for forging a partnership to include the ban in S. 1125. In addition, I appreciate Senator Leahy's strong commitment to the effort. I am also pleased by Sen. Hatch's willingness to work with us on this critical issue."

Sen. Feinstein said, "This agreement is a major step toward eliminating the use of asbestos. The Asbestos Trust Fund created by this bill cannot be justified unless the commercial use of asbestos is severely limited. If we don't stop the unnecessary commercial use of asbestos, we could face more victims of asbestos disease in the future – victims who would be barred by this very bill from suing the companies that put asbestos in their products."

Feinstein continued, "I would also like to recognize Senator Patty Murray for her continued leadership in pushing for an asbestos ban. The amendment we have today is a direct result of her efforts to publicize the need to ban asbestos."

Sen. Herb Kohl added, "This legislation will be meaningful only if we ban asbestos once and for all in this country. To Senator Murray's credit, we have made progress toward that goal. We worked together to craft a ban that will eliminate the toxin which has led to so many health nightmares. And we will continue to work to ensure an asbestos-free future."

The ban on asbestos would take effect within two years and would ban virtually all uses of asbestos in consumer products. The ban prohibits adding asbestos to products on purpose, such as friction products and gaskets. It also will prevent imports of asbestos containing products such as sheet panels, tubes, pipes and brake linings from countries where asbestos is still widely used.

A year ago today, Senator Murray introduced the Ban Asbestos in America Act to ban asbestos. Last month she reintroduced the legislation, which has been cosponsored by Senators Dayton, Baucus, Boxer, Cantwell, Leahy, Jeffords, Feinstein, Feingold and Lautenberg.