Citizens Once Again Petition Congress To Ban Asbestos

Regular readers are already ware that the fight to ban all forms of asbestos in the United States has been going on for a long time–and despite the efforts of U.S. Senator Patty Murray of Washington State, the battle is a long way from over.
Amphibole asbestos has of course been banned in most of the world. However, chrysotile asbestos is still legally produced, marketed, and used in Canada and the U.S. as well as China and Russia. The first attempt to ban asbestos in the U.S. was on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency, which issued such a ban in 1989. Less than two years later, thanks in large part to intense pressure from corporate lobbyists and arguments that massive economic dislocation would result as a consequence, a Federal judge in a Fifth Circuit court overruled the EPA ban. When a series of news reports in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1999 and 2000 on the plight of Libby Montana raised public awareness of asbestos health issues, Senator Murray–whose state’s easternmost major city, Spokane, is a mere 85 miles from Libby–began her long fight to pass legislation that would completely ban all uses of asbestos in the United States. That legislation finally passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate in October. However, when the bill went to House of Representatives, the corporate lobbyists again swarmed down like locusts–and the final bill may wind up being gutted. Since then, information about asbestos content in many products sold in the U.S. have come to light.

There have been several stories here at about children’s modeling clay made with asbestos-contaminated talc. There was also the scandal surrounding the made-in-China CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit this past Christmas, which contained significant amounts of deadly amphibole asbestos. In addition, asbestos continues to be used in building materials such as spackle and window glazing. Congress is now preparing to hold hearings on whether or not there should be a complete and total ban on all asbestos and asbestos-containing products in the United States. As this is happening, the industry lobbyists are again applying pressure to our legislators in attempts to permanently allow the current law–which allows virtually any consumer product on our shelves to contain up to 1 percent chrysotile asbestos–to stand. Despite Congress’ shameful record for the past several years in caving into special corporate interest groups, there have been some victories resulting from public outcry. Currently, concerned citizens can sign an online petition demanding that Congress pass a complete ban on all asbestos products in the U.S.