Physician/Scientists/ Occ-Env Professionals
United States of America

Summary Statement of Physicians, Scientists and Occupational/Environmental Professionals Opposed to the Present Version of the "Ban Asbestos" Act, S.B. 742

February 5, 2008

Dear Member of the United States House,

This letter is written in opposition to Senate Bill 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act. Sadly, the originators of this statement and many of its cosigners have spent significant parts of their lives working to alleviate the disease and death caused by this family of mineral fibers, but find the present version of this Bill to be so objectionable, that we believe the existing situation is actually better for the American public than that which would be created by this legislation.

Part of the problem involves the definition of what actually constitutes an asbestos fiber, and how many fibers capable of causing cancer and lung scarring can be present in other dusts before those dusts are defined as "asbestos" or an "asbestos containing material." Historically, this definition has largely been the product of economic negotiations and the political process, rather than a consensus or peer-reviewed opinion of physicians, geologists, industrial hygienists and allied scientists.

In the case of Senate Bill 742, it turned out that the toxic fibers contained in vermiculite, taconite and talc are excluded from the ban based on non-health based criteria. Exposure to the toxic fibers in these materials is associated with the causation of mesothelioma, lung cancer and lung scarring in the same fashion as other currently regulated asbestos fibers.

While experts were originally consulted early in the process, their input on these issues was not effectively translated into health protective legislation.

Many experts in the field are also dismayed that an American ban on asbestos would allow fibers defined by S.B. 742 as asbestos to contaminate products ranging from road patch to children’s toys. The predominant scientific consensus is that there is no such thing as a “safe” level of asbestos. This consensus has been reconfirmed by recent EPA studies which clearly show that an asbestos contamination of materials at levels well-below 1% can result in hazardous exposures when disturbed.

Additionally, this Bill allows for the marketing and promotion of products containing these fibers and similar fibers.

There are other specific issues with the Bill that we would like to see improved (such as the extremely low level of funding for cancer research), but through the process have been willing to compromise on these issues because the number of lives saved by an actual prohibition of asbestos would be considerable.

It is estimated that at least 10,000 Americans die per year from asbestos-related diseases and cancers. This number is expected to rise over the next 10 years and plateau for an unknown period of time after that.

Many physicians and scientists in this field feel that "asbestos" is best defined as any material which causes "asbestos-related diseases and cancers." It is our feeling that the process has become so skewed by the economic, legal and political considerations of asbestos-related diseases, that traditional scientific and medical approaches to the definition of disease and etiology have been discarded in favor of ill-considered political expediency. Science, medicine and compassion must be re-integrated into this Bill.

Asbestosis and asbestos cancers are first and foremost causes of disease and death. To allow political expediency to eclipse this reality while authorizing the persistence of a public health danger is not good enough for the American people.

It is our sincere hope that you will contact us for further detail in regard to our objections to this Bill. It is our duty and honor to attempt to help you understand the science, medicine and reality of that which is before you, so that properly worded legislation can be written to ban asbestos in America.


Michael R.Harbut, MD, MPH, FCCP
Co Director
National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers,
Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University
Detroit, Michigan

Richard A. Lemen, Ph.D.
Assistant Surgeon General, United States Public Health Service (Ret.)
241 Rose Ridge Court
Canton, Georgia

Barry Castleman, ScD.
Environmental Consultant

Stephen M. Levin, MD
Medical Director
Mount Sinai - IJ Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine,
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
New York, New York

Arthur L. Frank, MD, PhD.
Professor, Chair
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health,
Drexel University, School of Public Health
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Kathleen Burns, PhD.
Lexington, Massachusetts

Brad Black, MD
Medical Director
Center for Asbestos Related Disease
Libby, Montana

Alan C. Whitehouse, MD, FCCP
Pulmonary Consultant
Center for Asbestos Related Disease
Libby, Montana

The undersigned join with Dr. Michael Harbut, Dr. Richard Lemen, Dr. Barry Castleman, Dr. Stephen Levin, Dr. Arthur Frank, Dr. Kathleen Burns, Dr. Brad Black and Dr. Alan Whitehouse as cosignatories of the statement above.

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The Opposition to Senate Bill 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act petition to Physician/Scientists/ Occ-Env Professionals was written by Linda Reinstein and is in the category Health at GoPetition.