Banning asbestos is a giant leap forward for Biden’s Cancer Moonshot 

President Biden speaks during an event to sign an executive order regarding project labor agreements at Irownworks Local 5 in Upper Marlboro, Md., on Friday, February 4, 2022.
Greg Nash

Last week, President Biden announced his administration would reignite the “Cancer Moonshot” to cut cancer deaths in America by half in 25 years.

The president said cancer is, “a disease where we often diagnose it too late and we have too few effective ways to prevent it.”

That may be true of some types of cancer—but it’s not true of all of them. In fact, we know the exact way to prevent an estimated 40,000 Americans from dying from cancers and diseases caused by asbestos every year—and that’s to ban asbestos imports and use in the U.S., following the path of nearly 70 countries around the world. 

Too many Americans think asbestos is a thing of the past, but it lurks in our homes, offices, schools, and consumer products, while hundreds of tons of the deadly substance continue to be imported and used into our country every year

For decades, victims, their loved ones, labor unions, and scientific experts have urged Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban this deadly toxin. Going so far as to successfully sue the EPA to require the U.S. asbestos industry to disclose details about how, when, and where any asbestos-containing products are being imported and put to use. It took legal action and a win to guarantee EPA to demand a stronger study of legacy asbestos despite the millions of tons of asbestos that were used across the country in the past. It’s been over 35 years since a comprehensive study has taken place to identify where asbestos is and how to keep Americans safe from unnecessary or accidental structural exposure. 

For years, a piece of legislation called the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (ARBAN), which would ban all commercial asbestos imports and use without loopholes or exclusions, has been stalled in Congress. In 2019 it made it out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, but never to a vote. In 2022, a discussion draft is making its way around, but has yet to be introduced. 

The scientific community is clear: there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, yet our laws make no restriction on asbestos imports and allow almost all uses of the substance. Despite decades of irrefutable evidence of the dangers of asbestos, action to protect the public from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and other deadly diseases has been weak and slow. 

We can’t continue to wait while thousands are sickened and die every year from these entirely preventable diseases. President Biden wants a cancer moonshot and so do we. This failure to protect Americans from this known carcinogen is an abject failure of public health policy. 

Cancer is a devastating disease whose toll on our families, communities and health care system is much too great. But in this one way, in the fight against asbestos-caused cancers and disease, the answer is simple: it is time for the Biden administration and Congress to ban asbestos to prevent mesothelioma, lung and others cancers. An asbestos ban would be one giant leap forward to advance the president’s moonshot to eliminate cancer.

Dr. Raja Flores is a recognized leader in the field of Thoracic Surgery for his pioneering efforts in the treatment of mesothelioma. Linda Reinstein is the president and chief executive of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which seeks to eliminate asbestos-caused diseases and protect the rights of asbestos victims.

Tags asbestos Cancer moonshot Joe Biden

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