WASHINGTON (October 4, 2007) – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today praised Senate passage of legislation he authored with Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., to ban for the first time ever the production, manufacture and distribution of asbestos, a deadly carcinogen that is still legally used in the United States.
“It was a pleasure to work with Senator Murray on crafting this legislation. This bill is the culmination of months of bipartisan work to find common ground on this important issue, and I extremely pleased the Senate acted so quickly to approve it,” Isakson said. “Banning asbestos is simply the right thing to do. This legislation provides the framework for how we must go about achieving that goal, and I plan to work with my colleagues in the House to make sure this bill reaches the President’s desk.”
The bill establishes 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.
Asbestos is known to cause diseases, including mesothelioma, a cancer that occurs when malignant cells develop in the protective lining around the lungs. Despite this hazard, the substance is not banned. The EPA initially proposed a ban of most asbestos-containing materials in the late 1970’s, but the rule was not finalized until 1989. In 1991, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the rule, finding that EPA had “failed to muster substantial evidence” in support of the ban. Today, the United States uses about 2,000 tons of asbestos annually, down from almost 800,000 tons used in the mid-1970’s.
In addition to an outright ban on asbestos, the bill also calls for a national mesothelioma registry, a public information campaign about the hazards of asbestos-containing materials, some narrow exemptions for the few areas in which asbestos can be used safely and an annual testing program for asbestos-containing material in products.