EIA Addresses Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation's Efforts to Ban Asbestos by State

June 1, 2019

Marjorie G. Zauderer, MD, MS, FACP
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
1615 L Street, NW, Suite 430
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Dr. Zauderer:

I have grave concerns about the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation’s (MARF) efforts to "lead the charge" to ban asbestos state by state. This is a dangerous approach to banning asbestos. Recent bills in New Jersey and Connecticut will lead citizens to think that asbestos has been banned, which is simply not true. I believe that MARF should cease their state-by-state efforts, and instead, put efforts behind the substantial progress that is being made at the federal level.

Simply put, both the New Jersey ban asbestos bill and the Connecticut ban asbestos bill do not have sufficient "teeth" to stop the importation of asbestos. Moreover, these states do not have the resources to be able to enforce these regulations.

The New Jersey bill bans the sale or distribution of products containing asbestos, but does not ban or block the importation of raw asbestos for use in the chlor-alkali industry. This bill also only provides for an insignifcant penalty of $2,500 per offense, which is a cheap price to pay for the sale and distribution of asbestos-containing products.

The Connecticut bill is essentially a copy of EPA’s "Significant New Use Rule" for asbestos. This bill would allow for a review of products for possible distribution. It is not a ban. And like New Jersey, the Connecticut bill does not ban the importation of raw asbestos for the chlor-alkali industry.

Neither of these bills have penalties and fines that might actually curb the possible use of asbestos, and neither state has the resources to enforce these so called "bans" on asbestos. Essentially, both of these bills are nothing but window dressing that will lull the legislators and the citizens of these states into a state of complacency while asbestos exposure is still allowed to occur.

Alternatively, at the federal level, there is significant momentum behind the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 (ARBAN). This bill had a bicameral introduction in March, which alone gives the bill significant momentum. The bills have the support and backing of AFL-CIO, Environmental Working Group (EWG), National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and many others. The ARBAN bills that are moving forward in the House and Senate would prohibit all importation and use of raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The chlor-alkali industry accounts for all the raw asbestos imports and is a heavy user of asbestos in the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda. The ARBAN legislation would force the chlor-alkali industry to transition to safer, non-asbestos processes. ARBAN would also eliminate all ongoing imports of asbestos-containing products, including brake linings, gaskets, cement and several others, as well as asbestos-contaminated consumer products such as cosmetics and crayons.

The Congressional strategy of the chlor-alkali industry is to support banning asbestos-containing products but to avoid a ban on asbestos imports and the use of this asbestos in their operations. The CT and NJ bills are consistent with this strategy and could be used either to oppose the need for national legislation or to argue for narrowing its scope in a way that protects the industry.

The importation and use of raw asbestos by the chlor-alkali industry provides numerous pathways of exposure to asbestos that will continue the legacy of asbestos disease. During the life cycle of asbestos use in their processes, exposures occur during the mining, packaging, shipping, handling, building of the diaphragm, dismantling of the diaphragm, packaging, transportation and disposal.

If MARF is really serious about working to eliminate Mesothelioma, then the CT and NJ bills are not the answer. A complete ban is the only way to assure that asbestos exposure will eventually come to an end. I find it appalling that MARF would turn its resources to a minimalist state-by-state campaign when there is significant momentum on Capitol Hill for a REAL ban of asbestos in the US. If we ever expect to enact a ban in the US, we need to pool our resources instead of spreading our resources. The best use of all of our talents and energy is in support of ARBAN at the federal level. I urge you to work with your board and staff to turn MARF’s attention toward a complete federal ban on asbestos.

Sincerely,

J. Brent Kynoch

Managing Director, Environmental Information Association

cc: MARF Board of Directors

Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director

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