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House bill receives bipartisan support for asbestos ban

Could the United States be on its way to a full asbestos ban? Thirty years after the nation first tried to ban most uses of the carcinogen, the House Energy and Commerce Committee overwhelmingly approved a new ban. The bill received bipartisan support as it passed the committee on a 47-1 vote.

As Bloomberg Environment reported, the bill passed its committee vote after it had been amended to allow chemical manufacturers a 10-year transition period. With the amendment, the bill even drew praise from the American Chemistry Council, who lobbied against the original draft.

What would an asbestos ban mean?

If the bill were to pass the Senate and be signed into law, it would mean the United States would join the dozens of other nations that have already banned asbestos. But the risks of asbestos exposure wouldn’t simply vanish overnight. The bill would grant some exemptions, and the nation would still have to deal with “legacy asbestos” already present in homes, schools, other buildings and materials.

Accordingly, the bill is a bit more nuanced than a full, immediate ban. Some of the details include:

  • The bill would ban the use and distribution of all non-exempted asbestos and asbestos-related materials
  • Companies would have one year to cease their asbestos-related activities and comply with the ban
  • The President could grant one-time national security exemptions of up to three years
  • Chlorine manufacturers would have five years to import the material and 10 years to transition away from it
  • Companies granted exemptions would need to report their asbestos use and distribution
  • The definition of asbestos would be expanded to include one type of fiber that had commonly been ignored
  • The EPA would be tasked to work with other agencies to assess the risks presented by legacy asbestos

Importantly, if it became law, the bill would eventually phase out all asbestos use, and the American public would no longer see hundreds of metric tons of carcinogenic fibers imported every year.

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