California Senator Prodding EPA about Asbestos Dangers

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif,), a huge advocate for environmental safety, told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that they MUST begin to lay the groundwork that will allow them to take action against asbestos use, asking them to flag the toxin for review as early as later this year.

Barbara Boxer- asbestos dangersIn an August 26th letter to the government agency, Boxer – who has long been a supporter of asbestos exposure victims – requested that asbestos be one of the first ten substances addressed under the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

Under the act, the EPA is supposed to give preference to reviewing known carcinogens like asbestos, which causes mesothelioma cancer, a disease that still effects about 3,000 Americans each year, despite the fact that guidelines as to the use of asbestos were issued nearly 40 years ago.

Boxer noted that choosing asbestos for that initial list would show that the EPA is indeed serious about making the most of the new law, which has replaced the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act.

“The chemicals selected will drive EPA’s agenda for the next several years,” Boxer wrote in her letter. “To build confidence in the agency’s ability to deliver meaningful results for our children and families, EPA must consider all forms of asbestos in this initial list of chemicals it acts on.”

Of course, including asbestos dangers on the list would only be the first step towards achieving a total ban on the use of the toxin. The U.S. has never issued an asbestos ban, despite the fact that the substance is banned in more than 40 countries at this time.

If a ban were eventually achieved – and that could take years – industries that still use asbestos-containing products would be forced to discard them. Such action could mean far fewer cases of mesothelioma and, perhaps, an eventual near eradication of the disease.

The EPA told Bloomberg News that they welcomed the input from Senator Boxer and others but made no statement as to whether or not they were considering or would consider asbestos as one of those initial ten substances to be scheduled for review.

President Obama cited asbestos as he signed the law into action earlier this summer, noting the limitations of the former Toxic Substances Control Act, which was passed by Congress in 1976.

“The system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos–a known carcinogen that kills as many as 10,000 Americans every year,” said the President as he took pen to paper. “I think a lot of Americans would be shocked by all that.”

Though the number of mesothelioma diagnoses in the U.S. has declined slightly in the last 10 years, many who worked with toxic asbestos continue to be touched by the disease. Because mesothelioma has a long latency period, it is possible for someone exposed in the 1970s to discover they have the disease 40 years later.

Mesothelioma is difficult to treat and often results in a poor prognosis and a quick, agonizing death. For decades, advocates like Boxer have been pushing for a ban, but to no avail.