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If It Is Broken: Asbestos and The Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976
When something is broken, fix it. That seems obvious enough. We go about our lives and when a problem arises, we fix, we persevere, we do something. Sometimes it can take months to fix the problem; sometimes it can take years to understand that there even is a problem – or where, or how. But, always, when something is broken, fix it.
We fix our homes when they are in need of repair; we see doctors and specialists when our health is in jeopardy; we use fundraisers and board meetings to overhaul the schools in our community. Maybe, sometimes, the problem is too big to get fixed so quickly. But we always try, and, in trying we know that we have the best odds of ultimately coming to a solution.
We hope our government works towards solutions, too. However, with the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, we are seeing problems, but we aren’t seeing fixes.
Problem 1 Asbestos is a well-documented human carcinogen; no amount of exposure to asbestos is safe. Asbestos exposure can lead to a rare and deadly cancer, mesothelioma.
Problem 2 There is no known cure for mesothelioma. Instead, the World Health Organization (WHO) says, “The most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using all types of asbestos.”
Problem 3 Every industrial western nation has banned asbestos – except for Canada and the United States.
Problem 4 Asbestos has been used in a variety of manufactured goods, from ceiling and floor tiles, to paper and cement products, roofing shingles, textiles, coatings and products such as automobile clutches, brakes and transmission parts. To this day, asbestos is still imported into the United States and used in a number of products because asbestos is cheaper and easier for the manufacturer, at the expense of employee and consumer health.
Problem 5 The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 does not ban asbestos, despite the known serious health risks, and recent bipartisan efforts to reform the TSCA are not sufficiently proposing a true end to asbestos use. In particular, the most recent Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1009), would make it impossible, for instance, for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban and/or phase out asbestos.
In 1976, the Toxic Substance Control Act was made to fix a problem – the problem of serious toxins and chemicals endangering the health of our families and communities. The act was made so that our country could be better protected from the manufacturers and large corporations that were using these toxins and chemicals and in turn exposing countless employees and consumers. Since then, we have had more deaths, more suffering, more awareness and studies – all showing how dangerous substances like asbestos can be, and yet asbestos, one of the worst offenders, has been left unscathed.
The problem is that asbestos is being imported into the United States and used to create goods and products that in turn expose us to the risk of developing a very serious and very lethal cancer. The fix is obvious, but it will require a true reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act.