WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Subcommittee on Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight, called and chaired a hearing on the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2022.
“Any expert and they will tell you there simply is no level of exposure to asbestos that is safe for the human body,” said Senator Merkley in his opening remarks. “That’s why most of the developed world – over 60 nations – have acted to protect citizens by banning the commercial use of asbestos. Here in the United States, however, we have failed to do the same. And because we’ve failed to do so, too many of our fellow Americans are forced to sit at a loved one’s bedside, watching as they become another victim of these deadly fibers.”
“Make no mistake, this situation is completely preventable. Yet instead of protecting our citizens from this deadly substance, here in the United States we’re actually importing more of it,” Merkley continued. “We need to ban all forms of asbestos from our country. That is precisely what the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2022 will do. … The threat posed by asbestos effects all Americans the same, doesn’t matter what party they belong to – and the solution should likewise protect all Americans.”
At the hearing, witnesses highlighted the deadly toll of asbestos exposure.
“We appreciate the Committee’s leadership in holding this important hearing and the support that Senator Merkley and his Senate colleagues welcome the support that many House members have voiced for this vital legislation,” said Linda Reinstein, President and Cofounder of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. “On behalf of ADAO and the thousands of American families that have lost loved ones to this lethal carcinogen, the workers, their families, and the public who are continually exposed, and the hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives due to this lethal carcinogen, we urge that S. 4244 be passed without delay to end the asbestos man-made disaster.”
“Asbestos was once thought to be a miracle compound that could shield people and buildings from fires. Unfortunately, it has turned into a nightmare that haunts fire fighters and wreaks havoc in their lives,” said Dr. Danny Whu, Chief Medical Officer of International Association of Fire Fighters. “Given the vast array of medical evidence proving the carcinogenic nature of asbestos, it is alarming that the federal government continues to permit the use of asbestos material during building construction projects in the United States. Fire fighters’ health and lives will continue to be jeopardized as long as asbestos continues to be commercially available for use in building construction. The IAFF wholeheartedly endorses the ARBAN Act of 2022, as it will prohibit the manufacturing, importation, distribution, sale, and use of commercial asbestos products. Banning this carcinogen from future building projects is key to reducing cancer incidence rates among fire fighters.”
“I commend Senator Merkley for his efforts to address this pervasive public health threat,” said Senator Carper, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “As our witnesses testified today, the health risks of asbestos exposure have been well-documented for years. We have a responsibility to protect Americans and those who keep our communities safe—such as firefighters and other emergency responders—from asbestos.”
The hearing considered the first-ever federal ban on the manufacturing, processing, use, and distribution in commerce of commercial asbestos in the United States. Asbestos has long been known to cause cancer and recent data shows that asbestos-related diseases killed 40,000 Americans in 2019 alone.
Witnesses included Linda Reinstein, President and Cofounder of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization; Danny Whu, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of International Association of Fire Fighters; David Lee Boone, General Manager of Copiah Water Association; and Robert J. Simmon, Vice President for Chemical Products & Technology Division of American Chemistry Council.
Archived video of the hearing is available here.