If there’s one reason we know our federal law governing chemicals doesn’t work, it’s asbestos. Despite popular belief, asbestos, one of the most harmful substances known, still isn’t banned in the United States.
This week marks the 37th birthday of our primary federal law governing toxic chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). While most birthdays are a joyous occasion, we’re taking this opportunity to educate the public on just how flawed our federal chemical law is.
Take for example asbestos. It’s one of the few substances that has a disease directly named after it (mesothelioma) and is widely regarded as a silent killer for many families.
Top five asbestos facts:
- Asbestos is a known human carcinogen and there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Learn more here.
- Asbestos is legal in the U.S., and is still imported.
- Thirty Americans die everyday from asbestos-related diseases.
- Only 55 countries have banned asbestos. The United States and Canada are the only two industrial western nations not to have banned asbestos.
- More than 10,000 people die in the U.S. each year from asbestos-related diseases
(Adapted with permission from our partners at the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization)
When TSCA was passed into law 37 years ago, it’s intent was to regulate toxic substances, but the bill was so fundamentally flawed, that EPA has little to no power to protect public health from toxic threats.
The EPA spent over 10 years and millions of dollars “making the case” for banning asbestos. They tried to ban the substance and couldn’t. The federal courts threw out their regulation, stating that they hadn’t met the requirements of the law. As public health advocates, we then asked the question: if you can’t regulate asbestos under this law, what can it do?
According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), the EPA can do very little to protect public health and the environment from toxic chemicals under this law. The result is that we have a hard time finding adequate information on where toxic chemicals are lurking, it’s nearly impossible for consumers to make smart decisions at the store (and is it really your job to try and navigate toxic chemical-laden products?), and workers and communities continue to be exposed to harmful chemicals.
This Friday is the 37th birthday for TSCA, and we find very little to celebrate. Instead, we’re urging Congress to pass real, meaningful reforms that would protect workers and families from harmful chemicals. Ask Congress to pass meaningful chemical reform that will protect our families and children!