Just a handful of days ago, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that marks the first major environmental legislation passed in more than two decades and the first overhaul of some very old environment-related laws, possibly paving the way for the eventual total ban on the use of asbestos-containing products in the United States.
According to an article posted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Lautenberg Act (named for the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who campaigned tirelessly for environmental safety), which provides new protections from hazardous chemicals found in all sorts of products, will next make its way to the President for his signature.
“Generations of American children have grown up without any real legal protection from toxic chemicals,” stated Fred Krupp, President of EDF. “I am grateful to all the Senators who worked to get this legislation passed,” he added, providing a list of those who have pushed for the reforms. “After so much hard work, we are just a signature away from a law that will finally start to give Americans the health protections they deserve.”
“Today’s vote is an historic victory for public health,” added Dr. Richard Denison, lead senior scientist for the EDF. “While not perfect, the Lautenberg Act fixes the biggest problems with our current law—by requiring safety reviews for chemicals in use today, mandating greater scrutiny of new chemicals before they can be sold, removing the barriers that prevented EPA from banning asbestos and other harmful chemicals, enhancing transparency, and much more. We look forward to seeing the president sign this landmark reform, so we can begin the process of restoring confidence in our chemical safety system.”
The bill serves to update the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was passed way back in 1976. Critics of the 40-year-old act note that it’s so outdated that only a very small percentage of the thousands and thousands of chemicals used in the manufacture of everyday products have ever been reviewed for safety.
They add that the old legislature left the EPA powerless to ban asbestos, even though it’s long been known to cause cancer among those who are exposed to it.
The Lautenberg Act requires the EPA to evaluate chemicals in question against a new risk-based safety standard, explains a recently-penned Associated Press article.
More importantly, proponents of the bill point out, it increases transparency of chemical information by limiting unwarranted claims of confidentiality by chemical companies. In other words, cover-ups – like those proliferated for decades by the asbestos industry – are less likely to occur.
That also means that future generations will likely not suffer in the same way their parents and grandparents did, especially where asbestos is concerned. For decades, companies kept their knowledge of the dangers of asbestos to themselves and allowed exposure to continue.
Still, today, some 2,500 individuals are diagnosed with asbestos-caused mesothelioma cancer each year in the U.S. Experts don’t see that number coming down for quite some time, put perhaps with legislation such as the Lautenberg Act, mesothelioma may someday disappear from the record books.