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Asbestos in the United States: Occurrences, Use and Control
(Released April 2008)

 
  by Andreas Saldivar & Vicki Soto  

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During the 1970s public awareness of the dangers of asbestos increased due to reporting of medical studies positively relating asbestos to lung disease. Demand for action resulted in legislation. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) was signed into law in October 1986. AHERA requires "schools to inspect their buildings for asbestos and take appropriate abatement actions using qualified, accredited persons for inspection and abatement." AHERA also requires asbestos control professionals to take appropriate initial training with annual refresher training (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Asbestos Training, 2008).

In 1989 the U.S. EPA issued a ruling banning most asbestos containing products. This ban was overturned by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991. However, under this ruling certain products remained banned, including flooring felt, rollboard, and corrugated, commercial, or specialty paper. The ruling also maintained the ban on asbestos in products that did not historically contain asbestos (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Asbestos Ban, 2008).

A new asbestos ban was introduced to congress in 2007. Senate bill S. 742, the "Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007," was introduced on March 1, 2007 and passed unanimously on October 4, 2007 (GovTrack.us, 2007). The bill "Prohibits the importation, manufacture, processing and distribution of products containing asbestos." In addition to the six currently regulated asbestos minerals, it also defines asbestos as "any material formerly classified as tremolite, including winchite asbestos and richterite asbestos" plus "any fibrous amphibole mineral" (U.S. Senate, 2007). The House of Representatives version of the bill, H.R. 3285, was introduced on August 1, 2007. To date, the only action the House has taken on this bill was a hearing by a subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials on February 28, 2008 (Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2008).

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