ACOEM Supports Alan Reistein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019

April 23, 2020

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
1236 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
1705 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Re: H.R. 1603, Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer:

On behalf of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), I am writing to express support for H.R. 1603, the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 and to urge you to schedule the bill for floor consideration at the earlist possible time. H.R. 1603 amends section 6 of TSCA (15 U.S.C. 2605) to prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of asbestos and asbestos containing mixtures and articles.

ACOEM is a national medical society representing 4,000 occupational medicine physicians and other health care professionals devoted to promoting optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments. The College is dedicated to improving the care and wellbeing of workers through science and the sharing of knowledge.

Asbestos exposure affects all sectors of our workforce, including fire fighters, construction workers, teachers, utility workers, health care workers, and all those who work and live in buildings where asbestos was installed decades ago. As our nation’s infrastructure degrades due to age and weathering, working people and the public are put at risk. Previously installed asbestos -- or so-called legacy asbestos -- is especially problematic because it exposes workers to friable asbestos, causing chronic, progressive, debilitating diseases.

Each year, an estimated 40,000 Americans die from asbestos-related cancers and respiratory disease. The World Health Organization has declared that there is no safe level of asbestos, and that the most effective
way to prevent asbestos-related disease is to ban all types of asbestos. The potential for harm posed by asbestos is universally recognized, and addressing its risks was a significant priority in Congress’ effort to reform the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) in 2016.

We believe the Reinstein Bill provisions are what is required to address the dire risks that asbestos continues to pose to human health in light of the failure to date to institute a proper ban of the toxic chemical. 

We agree with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone that EPA’s recently released draft evalution of asbestos is too narrowly focused and ignores multiple aspects of asbestos risk as well as a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The draft evaluation does not address the risks of legacy asbestos products contained in millions of buildings across the US, despite the ruling from the Ninth Circuit that EPA is obligated to evaluate these risks. While EPA makes vague promises to conduct a supplemental evaluation of legacy asbestos products, no process or timetable for meeting this obligation is provided.

Thank you for your continued leadership in protecting workers from the spread of COVID-19. Please do not hesitate to contact Patrick O’Connor, ACOEM’s Director of Government Affairs, at 703-351-6222, with any
questions.

Sincerely,

Stephen A. Frangos, MD, MPH, FACOEM
ACOEM President