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The toxic spin

In a September 16 article in The Hill, Groups push for Senate vote on chemical safety, writer Lydia Wheeler reported that “Environment, health and consumer groups are pushing Senate leaders to hold a vote on bipartisan legislation that would reform chemical safety laws.” 

Just think what it was like in 1976 when the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 was signed into law.  We saw Apple computers, VHS cassettes, and wore bellbottoms!  Whew, lots have changed in our world, but little with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. 

{mosads}TSCA provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements and restrictions related to chemical substances and/or mixtures. While the EPA recognizes asbestos as a known human carcinogen and established regulations to reduce or eliminate asbestos exposure, their asbestos ban efforts failed in 1991. Left with the deadly legacy of asbestos, up to 15,000 Americans die every year from preventable asbestos-caused diseases – but there’s more. 

On Wednesday, Fred Krupp, executive director of the Environmental Defense Action Fund, March of Dimes, the National Wildlife Federation, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, The Humane Society of the United States, and Moms Clean Air Force held a conference call with reporters to lobby for The Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, S.697. However, there were 450 organizations opposed to S. 697 that weren’t heard.  

Validated by Jim Jones, assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the EPA, “More than three and a half decades since the passage of TSCA, the EPA has only been able to require testing on just a little more than 200 of the 84,000 chemicals listed on the TSCA inventory.” 

For more than 100 years, we have known that asbestos exposure leads to horrific diseases, yet it remains legal and lethal today and imports continue. More than 31 million metric tons of asbestos have been used in buildings and consumer products, remaining an environmental threat. 

The Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factor Study of 2013 (GBD 2013) study found occupational asbestos exposure to be responsible for 194,000 deaths in 2013 which is an increase of nearly 90,000 asbestos-related deaths. 

Americans demand and deserve legislation written by the people for the people – not by industry profiteers like the American Chemistry Council (ACC).   As written, S. 697 weakens the failed 1976 TSCA and doesn’t ensure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can expeditiously ban asbestos and other deadly chemicals.  Experts estimate it would take the EPA more than a century to test the most hazardous 1,000 chemicals that have been grandfathered into commerce.  

Most Americans can’t identify asbestos or manage the risk.  As our children return to school, we are yet again reminded about toxins on consumer shelves, in our homes, schools, and workplaces.  

Without training and testing, it is nearly impossible to manage the risk during repairs, renovations, and hazardous debris removal after disasters. Our inability to identify and manage the risk of asbestos perpetuates this deadly threat into the lives of future generations. 

The collateral damage from the man-made asbestos disaster is expensive in dollars and lives.  

Residents from the quaint and charming town of Libby, Montana have paid a dear price for W.R. Grace and Company’s greed and the weak TSCA law.  Although the federal government has spent over $550 million dollars cleaning up the man-made disaster, asbestos occupational and environmental exposure still sickens and claims lives decades after the mine was closed. 

In May of 2010, the United States President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) reported, “Construction workers were found to be 11 times more likely to develop mesothelioma, due to asbestos exposures at the site.” 

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently reported, “The population of firefighters in the study had a rate of mesothelioma two times greater than the rate in the U.S. population as a whole.” 

I watched my husband die a slow and painful death by a 1,000 cuts for preventable mesothelioma, caused from asbestos.  

As Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak stated: “The asbestos issue is not a thing of the past. It continues to this day.”   As a mesothelioma widow, I remind Congress, for every life lost from an asbestos-caused disease, a shattered family is left behind.  

Congress must work together on behalf of those silenced by asbestos and other toxins. The time is now to reform TSCA and ensure the EPA can and will expeditiously ban asbestos and other deadly chemicals.

Reinstein is president and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).


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