Ending the scourge of mesothelioma could be done in one of two ways. First, find a cure. Second, stop people from becoming exposed to asbestos.
Stopping asbestos exposure would mean no more mesothelioma, because exposure to asbestos is what causes it.
Elected officials in the nation’s capital are taking steps to stop asbestos exposure from happening. How? With a proposed federal law that could potentially outlaw asbestos everywhere in the U.S.
This proposed law was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 28, 2016. It is officially known as Senate Bill 3427. It’s called the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016.
S.B. 3427 would give the president the authority to eliminate human exposure to asbestos. The president would be able to do this by having regulators write rules that make it illegal to possess or use asbestos.
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Supporters say this is just what’s needed to solve the problem of asbestos exposure in the U.S. Asbestos use is already way down from its peak in the 1960s, thanks to widespread awareness of its dangers.
But asbestos continues to be a problem because there is so much of it still lurking in homes, offices, factories and products built in the last century.
Critics say S.B. 3427 may not be all that helpful in getting rid of asbestos. It has loopholes allowing the president to exempt asbestos uses that are important to national security.
It also allows exemptions for asbestos uses where there isn’t any reasonable other choice other than to keep using it. And it allows exemptions where the president decides the risk asbestos poses to human health isn’t unreasonable.
Supporters and critics will have a chance to argue their differing views for only the next couple of months. S.B. 3427 will die if not adopted before the current session of Congress ends sometime in December.
The bill is currently before the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works. It will have to be approved by the committee before the full Senate can vote on it.
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If the Senate passes it, the bill will then have to go to the House of Representatives. The House must pass it, too. The passage process in the House will be much like the process in the Senate.
The thing about the process in the Senate and House is that it takes a lot of time. There are only roughly two months remaining before the current session ends. It is a long shot that S.B. 3427 will make it all the way through the process in time.
The good news is that the bill, if it dies, can be brought back to life in the next session of Congress, which starts in January. The bad news is it has to go through the process all over again from the beginning.
Worse, the bill’s sponsor, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, won’t be back for the next session. She is not running for re-election, so she can’t re-introduce the bill in January.
Someone who could re-introduce the bill in January is its co-sponsor. The co-sponsor is Montana Democrat Jon Tester. His term in the Senate runs until the end of 2018.
S.B. 3427 is named to honor the memory of California resident Alan Reinstein. He died of mesothelioma in 2006 at the age of 66.