In the late 1960s, medical researchers began releasing information about the toxic nature of the asbestos mineral. Companies that used heavy amounts of asbestos knew of the health dangers that asbestos presented to workers, but those same companies were reluctant to stop using asbestos altogether. An asbestos ban was needed.
Many companies in the asbestos industry decided to choose profits over the health of workers. In the mid-1970s, policymakers began pushing for asbestos regulation, including some calling for an outright ban on the toxic mineral. Some manufacturers voluntarily withdrew asbestos, but the problem still remained because asbestos was used so extensively in construction, mining, and all branches of the military.
More than half of all American public schools were built using asbestos-containing materials and products. Legislation banning toxic asbestos has been introduced several times in Congress over the past few decades but has never been passed. Of all the industrialized nations in the world, the United States is one of the few to not ban asbestos completely.
Our nation still allows asbestos to be used in construction materials for fireproofing, roofing, gaskets, and countless consumer products that most people use daily. Over 50 countries worldwide have completely banned asbestos, including most countries in Europe.
History of U.S. Federal Asbestos Ban
In 1973, 1975 and 1978, the EPA banned asbestos use for a few specific purposes. However, there was no outright ban on the toxic mineral. The EPA initially banned some spray-applied asbestos for fireproofing and insulation before issuing an all-out ban in 1978 on all spray-applied materials. The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned asbestos in wall-patching compounds and artificial fireplace embers in 1977. Finally, in 1989, the EPA issued a final decision banning almost all asbestos-containing products. This ban included distribution, importation, and manufacturing of asbestos. Unfortunately, in 1991, the ban was overturned.
In the late 1990s, the world began to push for an international ban on asbestos. This resulted in Senator Patty Murray of Washington introducing the Ban Asbestos in America Act in 2002. After a long fight in Congress, the asbestos ban finally passed in the U.S. Senate, but was not approved by the House of Representatives when the bill died on the House floor.
This lack of complete Congressional support completely destroyed the chance for asbestos to be banned in the U.S. and prohibit it from being manufactured, distributed, imported, and processed.
The latest attempt to ban asbestos was introduced in Congress in 2008. The Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act proposed to amend the original Toxic Substances Control Act in order to ban more types of asbestos-containing products. However, just like the previous attempt to ban asbestos entirely, this bill also died before a vote and the issue has never been brought up for a vote since. With the amount of mesothelioma cases mounting, policymakers should continue the fight for an asbestos ban.