Medical Community Drafts Asbestos Petition

Various members of the medical and scientific research community are drafting and signing a petition that will go to the House of Representatives, asking them to pass legislature that will totally ban the importation and use of asbestos-containing products.

According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, physicians, nurses, industrial hygienists, clinical scientists and others who deal with the victims of asbestos exposure are signing the petition. Many of them have worked with Washington senator Patty Murray in her six-year fight to ban asbestos. However, they say that with its current wording, Bill SB742, proposed by Murray last fall, won’t accomplish everything necessary to stop the fatal legacy of asbestos exposure.

These individuals and other lobbyists say that Murray’s original language – which would have ordered a complete ban on asbestos – was watered down to get the bill passed. The new Senate version would not have outlawed asbestos from vermiculite, talc, taconite and other sources of contamination. But most importantly, say Murray’s former backers, are that products containing up to 1 percent asbestos are exempt from prohibition, says Dr, Michael Harbut, co-director of the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

“What the Senate passed would even allow asbestos fibers to be present in everything from road patch to stuffed teddy bears,” Harbut said. “How is that protecting the public health?” asked Harbut, who is also employed at the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Wayne State University.

The House expects to hold hearing on “a more inclusive” ban in early spring, committee staffers say. Currently, 40 countries around the world have issued a total ban on asbestos, including almost all the European Union members. The U.S. issued strong warnings about asbestos use in the 1970s but never a total ban.

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