At today’s Senate hearing onÂ Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) proposal to ban asbestos in the U.S.,Â Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said some very interesting things.Â (Audio here) His opening statement began predictably:
There is no debate that certain forms of asbestos are toxic and deadly.Â (Oh yeah, I know where this is going.Â It’s the same oldÂ debate about amphibole v. serpentine fibers.)Â Â Â We will hear today that there are several types of asbestos.Â Â Different forms of asbestos pose different health risks.Â (I knew it.Â I know where he’s going now.Â Another defender of chrysotile.)Â Â Â Any ban passed by Congress should recognize those differences.
(For more on theÂ asbestos industry’sÂ campaign to convinceÂ us that chrysotile is theÂ “safe form of asbestos,” readÂ Egilman et al’s “Exposing the Myth of ABC.”)
But then the Senator made a U-turn in his statement, or at least I think he did.
Senator Isakson continued, referring to the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act (FAIR Act) which was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 109th Congress, but later stalled in the full Senate.
Last Congress, I was happy to support the ban included in Senator Spector and Senator Leahyâs FAIR Act.Â Senators Spector and Leahy recognized the important distinctions between various kinds of asbestos, and the ban that emerged in their bi-partisan bill was a workable and reasonable ban.
After the hearing concluded, I dug out my copy of the FAIR Act (S. 852) to look at the asbestos ban provision.Â Did it make some distinction between amphibole and chrysotile?Â I didn’t remember that, but withÂ Senator Isakson’s strong endorsement of theÂ “ban language” in the FAIR Act, there must be some loophole for chrysotile, right?
On about page 400, I found Title V, Subtitle B: Ban of Asbestos-Containing Products.Â The ban would extend toÂ the followingÂ durable fibrous minerals:
- tremolite asbestos
- winchite asbestos
- richterite asbestos
- anthophyllite asbestos
- actinolite asbestos
- asbestiform-amphibole minerals
I see chrysotile right at the top of the list.Â Am I missing something?Â Was there someÂ exceptionÂ for chrysotile in theÂ FAIR Act’s asbestos ban?Â Senator Isakson, if you’re out there, can you help me understand?