Ban Asbestos in America Act: Déjà Vu II

By October 5, 2007General

When I read of the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007, passed by the Senate yesterday, it was for me, in Yogi Berra’s famous phrase, déjà vu all over again. The bill charges the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to study asbestos and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prohibit the use and sale of products that contain asbestos.

Good grief. NIOSH and EPA and also OSHA and the CPSC have been all over the asbestos case for 35 years beginning with hearings at the Labor Department in 1972. Here are the facts. Asbestos is a useful mineral common throughout the world. Everyone has been exposed to it. There are different kinds of asbestos. The most common type, chrysotile, does not appear to be particularly hazardous to people. The majority of asbestos-related illnesses stems from excessive exposures that occurred during ship construction in World War II. After many years of intensive study, the EPA concluded that intact asbestos in buildings should be left alone.

Asbestos has marvelous fire-retardant properties that save lives. The politically driven mania to ban asbestos creates serious hazards where none need exist. The crash of the shuttle Challenger, for example, was caused by the failure of critical O-rings which, because of a CPSC ban on asbestos products, were not sealed with the standard putty containing asbestos. Many useful products are safe for humans because they contain asbestos.

This bill, if it becomes law, will create hazards where none exist.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • dave says:

    There was no significant ban until after the shuttle flight, but the government banned asbestos in paints, putty’s and other houshold products, and many company’s, including the company that supplied NASA with the asbestos containing putty, stopped manufacturing that putty before the challager disaster out of fear of possible legal trouble becuase of the putty.

  • Art Zygielbaum says:

    Writing as an ex-NASA employee, and oversight panel member, the comment on the lack or inclusion of asbestos in the o-ring putty is sheer nonsense (no pun intended). Combustion gas blow-by had been seen on earlier flights.

    The other telling problem with this report is that OSHA did not provide any significant “ban” (except for spakling compound and fake ashes used on gas logs) until after the Challenger accident.

    If the manufacturer association’s position and concern is real, then real facts and real conditions should be reporting. Making an argument based on wrong facts raises a strong doubt about veracity and intent.

  • Paul Zygielbaum says:

    Hank Cox’s statement is so full of errors, it’s hard to know where to start. As a mesothelioma patient, I have studied the tragedy of asbestos use and have learned that (1) asbestos is a deadly mineral that has already been banned in about 40 countries around the world, (2) asbestos poisoning causes the excruciating deaths of at least 10,000 Americans every year, (3) affordable substitutes are available for every single application, (4) the producers have been masterful at suppressing the truth, including the toxicity of the chrysotile form, (5) the WWII-related diseases are declining as those veterans and shipyard workers die off, but cases of mesothelioma and other cancers are increasing, and (6) asbestos in buildings will eventually find its way into the air, so leaving it alone is just leaving poison in place to kill Americans in the future. As an ex-aerospace engineer, I don’t know what source Cox drew on to blame the Challenger explosion on a lack of asbestos, but that’s shear nonsense, because asbestos is not banned from aerospace applications; the shuttle exploded because middle managers ignored engineers’ warnings about launching the vehicle outside its design envelope, asbestos or no asbestos. Now Cox wants to ignore the warnings of the vast majority of knowledgeable medical researchers, who tell us that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure for humans. As someone who expects to die of mesothelioma, I am outraged by Cox’s claim that our fight against asbestos poisoning is “political mania.” The conditions in which asbestos can be used safely are extremely limited. Asbestos is far more often used unsafely. And don’t forget that its use implies the need to mine it, refine it, ship it, and process it, and all of those operations are hazardous to the workers. Every year we lose at least 3 times as many Americans to asbestos as we did to terrorism on 9/11. I hope Cox and his family never have to go through what my family and I are enduring. I call on him to put aside his disdain for those of us who are trying to save American lives, and join us in advocating for safe alternatives and the long-overdue ban on asbestos.

  • To profit over people is unconscionable. In 1930 Dr. Merewether and Mr. Price warned industry that that asbestos disease was real and could be prevented, yet industry did not heed the public health warning.

    The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared asbestos as a human carcinogen thirty years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) agree – there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. The simple truth is – asbestos kills.

    Once known as the “The Magic Mineral”, these virtually indestructible asbestos fibers can be 700 times smaller than human hair and remain suspended in air from seconds to days.

    Asbestos kills more than 10,000 men, women and children every year. In the 1990s, the average mesothelioma patient was a male, aged 70, whose disease resulted from occupational exposure. But now the average age of patients contacting ADAO is about 50, and women represent a growing proportion of victims. Recently, a 16 year-old girl was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

    The Ban Asbestos in America bill, when it becomes law, will finally ban deadly asbestos, establish asbestos disease treatment centers and fund research for these incurable and deadly diseases.

    Linda Reinstein, ADAO Executive Director and Co-founder
    Mesothelioma Widow

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