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EWG Letter in Support of the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007

EWG Letter in Support of the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Download this letter as a PDF.

The Honorable Barbara Boxer

United States Senate

Committee on Environment and Public Works

Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.

Washington, DC 20510-6175

July 30, 2007

Dear Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Committee:

We are writing to urge the Committee to support S. 742, The Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007, and to commend those Committee members who have already cosponsored this important legislation.

Although we are concerned about the potential for exemptions under the legislation, we are encouraged by the fact that such exemptions maybe granted for a period "not to exceed 1 year."

As the bill notes, Environmental Working Group reported in 2004 that about 10,000 Americans die each year of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases and the death rate appears to be increasing. EWG estimated that over the next decade, more than 100,000 Americans will die from asbestos-related disease.

Because of the long latency period for asbestos-related illness, many asbestos-related deaths will not be seen until 20 to 50 years after exposure.

The bill correctly highlights the mistaken conventional wisdom: that asbestos has already been banned. While asbestos is regulated, it continues to be used in scores of products despite that fact that no amount of asbestos is safe to breathe.

In 1989, after conducting a ten-year study, spending $10 million, and

accumulating a 100,000 page administrative record, EPA announced that it would act under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to phase out and ban virtually all products containing asbestos.

In spite of the wealth of data, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the ban, finding that EPA failed to present "substantial evidence" to justify the ban under TSCA. The first Bush Administration declined to appeal the case.

The Fifth Circuit's decision has been called a "tragedy for the EPA," because the court imposed seemingly impossible analytical requirements on the agency. The holding indeed poses a serious question: If EPA can't ban a known carcinogen, at which no level of exposure is safe, how can EPA regulate any toxic substance?

The Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007 would accomplish what the Fifth

Circuit prevented EPA from doing 18 years ago. By banning the importation, manufacture, processing, and distribution of asbestos, Congress will limit exposure to one of the world's most toxic substances and protect public health today and for years to come.

For additional information, please contact EWG's Government Affairs Director, Sandy Schubert at 202-939-9150 or EWG's Natural Resources Analyst, Dusty Horwitt at 202-939-9133.

Sandy Schubert

Director of Government Affairs

Environmental Working Group

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