Brent Kynoch's Comments for ADAO Congressional Staff Briefing

Hello, my name is Brent Kynoch. I am the Managing Director of the Environmental Information Association or EIA. EIA is a membership organization that was founded in 1983 as the National Asbestos Council.

Our members are companies, organizations and persons involved in asbestos abatement and management in buildings and facilities. Our members include the entire vertical spectrum of persons involved in the abatement industry, including contractors, consultants, laboratories, training providers, regulators, equipment suppliers, owners and managers.

I would like to use the next few minutes to talk with you about a few things:

• Why we need ARBAN now.
• Legacy asbestos – or asbestos that currently exists in the nation’s homes, buildings and schools, and why it is a problem.
• And then why ARBAN has not been brought to the floor of the house for consideration.

First, we need ARBAN now, more than ever. Why? There are two reasons.

1. Because the Environmental Protection Agency has failed in every way possible to enforce existing asbestos regulations, and,
2. Because EPA has before it now a perfect opportunity to ban asbestos, but again, it seems that the agency will fail to do the right thing.

As for EPA’s failure to enforce existing asbestos regulations, one need look no further than Senator Edward Markey’s December 2015 report on the failure to manage asbestos in the nation’s school buildings as required by the AHERA legislation passed in 1986. In that report, Senator Markey outlines that even after 30 years since AHERA was enacted, the amount of asbestos in school buildings is still widespread, and the is difficult to ascertain. He outlined that states, who were given enforcement authority by EPA, have not been monitoring, investigating or addressing asbestos hazards in schools, and that states are not inspecting or keeping track of asbestos that is removed from schools. EPA has failed to hold states accountable for their responsibility in enforcing these very important and well-designed rules regarding legacy asbestos.

Regarding the opportunity to ban asbestos, in 2016, The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century revised TSCA specifically to give EPA more teeth and greater power in banning harmful chemicals and compounds. Asbestos had long been the “poster child” for revisions to TSCA, In fact, when President Obama signed the Lautenberg Act into law, he said this:

“The TSCA system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos -- a known carcinogen that kills as many as 10,000 Americans every year. I think a lot of Americans would be shocked by all that.”

However, it may come as no surprise to you that EPA is floundering and failing again. The revisions to TSCA were a clear pathway handed to the agency on a silver platter to finally enact a ban on asbestos. However, EPA has fallen short of this goal so far, and it does not seem that there is a motivation to ban asbestos, as has happened in almost 70 other countries around the world.

These are just some of the reasons we need ARBAN, failure to enforce existing regulations and failure to ban asbestos.
Oral comments to EPA Peer Review Meeting

Let me talk now about my 2nd point – legacy asbestos. This is the term of art for asbestos-containing materials that currently exist in the nation’s homes, schools and buildings. Legacy asbestos continues to expose unknowing and unsuspecting people to this deadly fiber, and because we have not banned asbestos, the problem only grows worse. As Dr. Lemen and Liz Hitchcock outlined, we have clear evidence that firefighters, who rush into buildings to save people and to douse fires have a higher incidence of mesothelioma from asbestos exposure than the rest of the population. And, as Dr. Frank stated, consider storms and storm damage as Marco is bearing down on the Texas and Louisiana coast. When storms damage structures that contain asbestos, the persons going in to clean up the mess are not told that they might be exposed to asbestos. And as for legacy asbestos that might affect each of you, every House and Senate Office Building and, indeed, the US Capitol building contains asbestos.

By banning any further use of asbestos, and by requiring a study on the amount of legacy asbestos that currently exists in buildings, ARBAN will help the United States to get a handle on completely preventable asbestos diseases like mesothelioma.

And lastly, if ARBAN is so great, why has it not been brought to the floor of the House for a vote?

ARBAN was considered by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in November 2019. Linda Reinstein, as she opened noted that ARBAN passed out of committee on a HUGELY bi-partisan vote of 47-1. But ironically, a lobbyist organization generally in favor of asbestos-ban legislation — the trial-lawyer organization called the American Association for Justice — is using its enormous power particularly among Democratic lawmakers to hold up the bill, saying it cannot support the bill as written. AAJ is seeking arcane language changes that it believes will provide a more favorable litigation environment for its members.

A ban on asbestos is long overdue, and with the strong bi-partisan support for ARBAN, this is the right time and the right legislation to get the job done. Almost 70 countries and territories around the world have banned asbestos, yet the US is mired down in political mischief, even as tens of thousands of Americans die each year of completely preventable asbestos-related diseases. It is simply unbelievable that AAJ - an organization of trial lawyers that purports to fight for justice for their clients - is holding up this opportunity to ban asbestos. It is time for the US to finally enact a ban on asbestos, to give true and lasting "justice" to our citizens.

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