After Four Years of EPA Delay, Merkley Calls for Congress to Act and Ban Asbestos Now

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, the lead sponsor of the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, released the following statement marking the four-year anniversary of the signing of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The Lautenberg Act gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to ban asbestos and required the EPA to have completed its review of asbestos by today’s date—but neither a ban nor a final review have been completed.

“Four years ago, when we passed chemical safety reform with overwhelming bipartisan support, asbestos was the poster child for the failings of previous laws. We all knew that asbestos was a highly dangerous carcinogen, and there was widespread agreement that it was shocking and unacceptable that asbestos was still allowed in the United States. Banning asbestos was a primary goal of this bipartisan law, and that’s why asbestos was one of a small list of chemicals that was singled out for expedited review by the EPA.

“Today, not only has EPA failed to ban asbestos, they have failed even to complete the review required by law. This unconscionable delay will cost thousands more American lives. Roughly 40,000 Americans each year die from asbestos-related causes, and this number will not decline until we take decisive action to protect Americans from asbestos. Even today asbestos imports and use continue here in America, with potentially millions of workers and consumers exposed.

“Bipartisan majorities in Congress gave EPA the tools to save lives, but tragically, the Trump administration EPA has shown that it is not willing to protect Americans from asbestos. Congress must step in and take action instead. We cannot wait any longer for the U.S. to join the rest of the developed world and ban asbestos. It’s time for Congress to take up and pass the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act.”