Friday, May 23, 2003

Senator Patty Murray Calls For Asbestos Ban

The Indestructible Mineral meets the Eternal Debate

In further asbestos related news, Senator Patty Murray has introduced a bill to ban asbestos from continued use in thousands of products that continue to use the cancer causing mineral.
Among other things, Murray's bill calls for a complete ban of asbestos in products within two years after the measure becomes law. It also provides for more research into the causes and treatment of asbestos-related cancers and requires the federal government to conduct a more aggressive campaign to educate the public about the risks of asbestos. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has introduced an identical version in the House.
Asbestos is still used in brake shoes, roofing supplies, gaskets, floor tiles, piping and some types of insulation. Murray’s bill follows on an EPA alert that
formally cautioned homeowners against disturbing and inhaling vermiculite insulation used in attics and walls because it could contain low levels of microscopic asbestos. The agency is also beefing up a public-awareness campaign designed to help consumers determine if their home contains contaminated vermiculite. That effort came on the heels of a surprising report by an independent EPA panel that called for the ban of asbestos nationwide.
This is the second year that Murray has introduced this bill. While she is not confident about passage this year, she hopes to have a hearing and stimulate discussion. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called Murray’s effort “long overdue.”

Murray’s bill comes a day after talks between labor and the business community over asbestos compensation threatened to break down over Senator Orin Hatch’s threat to introduce the industry bill into Congress. (See below).

Hatch’s plan caused a sharp drop in the stocks of companies with large asbestos liabilities yesterday. Sweeney called Hatch’s bill
a major step backward. The Hatch bill is merely a vehicle to relieve businesses and insurers of hundreds of billions of dollars of liability while significantly short-changing the asbestos victims of the fair compensation they are due.