Congress recently failed to pass a bill that would have amended an existing federal law to prohibit the manufacturing and sales of asbestos, or any other products that contain the deadly carcinogen. The impasse came after the bill failed to pass through the House of Representatives when partisan bickering arose over an amendment that would have preserved the right of asbestos cancer victims to hold negligent companies accountable in a court of law and seek compensation for the harm suffered.
The failure to send the bill from the House to the Senate was a blow to asbestos victims and advocates who had pushed hard for the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act to become law and help save countless lives. The bill had previously cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee by an overwhelming margin, by a vote of 47-1 and had broad bi-partisan support in the Senate. However, a late amendment by Democrats essentially killed the legislation after Republicans took issue with the prospect of litigation over talcum-powder asbestos cancer lawsuits.
The added language to the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act would not have changed the definition of asbestos as far as cosmetics regulations under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and for determining whether a cosmetics product contains asbestos either as an ingredient or as an accessory mineral to an ingredient, such as talc. Companies like Johnson & Johnson are embroiled in legal fights with plaintiffs who claim they developed mesothelioma and other serious forms of cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers in talc-based cosmetics products.
“Everyone should be able to support a ban on this known carcinogen, which has no place in our consumer products or processes. More than 40,000 Americans die every year from asbestos exposure, but Republicans are willing to look the other way,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. said in a statement. “Republicans walked away from this opportunity to ban asbestos merely over language that prevents shutting the courtroom door. This raises serious questions about the sincerity of their intentions,” he added.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once using a variety of industrial, commercial, and military applications for its heat-resistant properties and ability to be molded to fit a variety of applications. However, asbestos is also directly linked to developing mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that commonly affects thin linings of tissue surrounding vital organs such as the lungs, heart, and abdominal cavity. Sixty countries currently have an all-out ban on asbestos and the United States has failed to enact significant new restrictions since the mid-1970s.
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