In September 2007 Congress passed the “Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007,” co-sponsored by Senators Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Barbara Boxer, D-California. The bill, initially supported by many prominent health and environmental experts, prohibits the use of the cancer-causing mineral in many common products. However, many of the same experts who testified in support of the bill are now saying that it doesn’t go far enough, and that industry lobbyists achieved significant gains in the final wording of the legislation.
“I passionately wish it covered all asbestos products,” said Senator Murray, noting that the legislation was modified in order to ensure it received the needed votes in both houses of Congress.
“The public will be given a false sense of hope and that, to me, is an outrage,” said Richard Lemen, retired U.S. assistant surgeon general and former acting director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. “As a result there are going to be thousands of people at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases. No one knows how many will die.”
Among other things, the bill does not cover asbestos-contaminated talc produced by a certain mine in upstate New York, which goes into some art clays. It also does not prevent waste from taconite mines, containing asbestos, from being used in the construction of public projects like roads, bridges, and airports. Companies may still legally state that they are using asbestos-free products in these projects as well. Other loopholes include the possible reopening of an asbestos-tainted mine and the selling of its contaminated ore in numerous products.