Today marked an important milestone in the battle against asbestos poisoning in the US. By unanimous vote, the US Senate passed SB 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007. This bill, which many activists and advocacy groups have worked long and hard to realize, would ban the presence of asbestos in products in America.
The bill calls for mandatory testing of products by the government to identify where asbestos is to be found, funding for medical research under the Department of Defense and civilian departments, establishment of a medical database on asbestos related diseases, and public education on these issues. The bill allows exemptions only for NASA and the military, and temporary exemptions for one type of chlorine production facility and (reportedly, although I haven’t verified this) crushed stone production. The bill was authored by Sen. Patty Murray, (D-WA) and was managed by the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) under Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
We owe a great debt of gratitude to Senators Murray and Boxer, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) for their leadership and support, as well as the hard work and support of their staffs. Sen. Isakson, in particular, had the courage to cross party lines and generate support for the bill on his side of the Aisle. Their effectiveness is reflected in the unanimous vote, which followed the bill’s unanimous passage by EPW. Considering the acrimonious history of asbestos regulation, litigation and legislation over decades, the unanimous votes are especially gratifying.
We still have to get through the House vote on the companion bill, HR 3285, the bills must be reconciled as to any differences, and then the President must sign the final bill into law. Then we have to support the financial appropriation and administrative actions needed for implementation. But today’s Senate vote is an important and hard-won milestone on the way to ending asbestos poisoning in America.
Michelle and I look forward to the day when that is a reality.
Thanks to everyone who has supported us along the way. We’ll keep up the fight until it’s done.
ADAO volunteer, mesothelioma survivor, and advocate