Asbestos was once considered a miracle substance because it is an excellent insulator and resists fire, but that was before the silicate material was linked mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Asbestos is no longer used in the construction industry, but large quantities of the substance can still be found in many older buildings. When these older buildings catch fire, the asbestos they contain poses a danger to firefighters. Job-related cancers are now the leading cause of death among firefighters in Pennsylvania and around the country, which is why the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers firefighting occupational exposure to be a Group 1 carcinogen.
Proposed legislation would ban asbestos
More than 70 countries have banned asbestos, and the United States will join them if the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act is passed and signed into law. The legislation, which was introduced on March 30, would revise the Toxic Substances Control Act to ban the manufacture, processing and sale of all types of asbestos. It would also prevent hundreds of tons of the substance from being imported into the United States each year.
IFAA supports asbestos ban
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act is supported by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the International Association of Fire Fighters. The legislation stalled in the committee stage when it was first introduced in 2019, but much has changed since then. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a ban on asbestos in 2022, and the American Public Health Association released a report in 2019 that linked asbestos exposure with approximately 40,000 deaths in the United States each year.
A slow and silent killer
Exposure to even tiny quantities of asbestos can cause deadly diseased that take decades to develop and cannot be cured, but the substance can still be found in products like automobile brake linings and sheet gaskets. Firefighters risk being exposed to asbestos every time they battle a blaze in an old building, which is why the IAFF is among the groups backing a bill that would ban the substance. Experts believe that the legislation has a good chance of passing because the EPA has also called for an asbestos ban.