Senator Murray’s Asbestos Bill Compromised?

Last month, a bill called the “Ban Asbestos In America Act” passed the U.S. Senate. Originally, the bill called for a complete ban on asbestos, as has happened in the European Union. It is now becoming clear, however, that the bill has been watered down to appease the corporate interests who ever more frequently attempt–all too often successfully–to dictate national policy. Senator Murray insists that the ban is “a major step forward,” adding that she wishes it were more comprehensive. “If I was just Patty Murray and I didn’t have to worry about getting other votes or a Republican president or that I have a one-vote majority in the United States Senate, I’d have a 100 percent ban,” she said. Here is a list of what the new law does not affect: Tainted talc used in children’s modeling clay (see “Asbestos-Laden Art Supplies” posted on 6 November); talc miners in upstate New York suffer unusually high levels of mesothelioma; Sale of asbestos-tainted taconite (see “The Iron Range Miners” posted on 13 August); the law allows this waste to be sold around the country for use in public construction projects, and the companies may continue to claim that the product is “asbestos free.”

Asbestos-contaminated vermiculite; there is nothing in the law that would keep the Libby Mine from being re-opened and the hazardous material being marketed and sold; nor will mines currently producing vermiculite be monitored. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has been very vocal in its opposition to the severely weakened legislation. Dr. Aubrey Miller, a toxicologist for the EPA, says: “The government knows that asbestos products not covered by the legislation can cause harm and would allow, and probably encourage, companies to continue selling contaminated products because they are exempt from the ban.” In the meantime, it seems that once again, the interests of Big Corporate Business trumps best interests of ordinary citizens. Linda Reinstein, executive director of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, who lost her own husband to mesothelioma, said: “…We cannot wind up with a ban that doesn’t include all asbestos. … We all knew that compromises had to be made to get this legislation passed but I didn’t anticipate that industry would successfully intervene at the last minute.”