Senate to Hold Asbestos Hearing Tomorrow

Tomorrow (June 12th), the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing entitled “An Examination of the Health Effects of Asbestos and Methods of Mitigating Such Impacts.” The first witness listed is Senator Patty Murray, who for the past several years has been pushing to ban asbestos in the U.S.; as chair of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety (of the Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions), she held a hearing on asbestos on March 1st.

Tomorrow’s hearing includes a total of nine witnesses:

Panel I
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Panel II
David Weissman, M.D., Director, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Captain Aubrey Keith Miller, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Medical Officer & Toxicologist
Commissioned Officer US Public Health Service, Environmental Protection Agency

Panel III
Melanie Marty, Ph.D., Chief, Air Toxicology and Epidemiology Branch, California Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
 
Panel IV
Barry Castleman, ScD, Environmental Consultant
Ann Wylie, Ph.D. University of Maryland , Department of Geology
David Weill, M.D., Associate Professor, Stanford University
Richard A. Lemen, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., Former Director of Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS (ret.), Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.)
Linda Reinstein, Executive Director and Cofounder, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Asbestos is a dangerous substance with no safe exposure level, and its dangers have been evident for decades – but that hasn’t been enough to convince U.S. lawmakers to ban it. New leadership in Congress may be responsible for the renewed interest in asbestos, and recent news stories may have helped push the topic up the priority list.

First, there was the case of the Capitol Tunnel workers, who for several years were exposed to high levels of asbestos underneath the very building where Congress convenes. (Murray’s hearing featured testimony from the leader of the tunnel worker crew; after that, the workers were reassigned and the Architect of the Capitol reached a settlement that requires them to fix hazards in the tunnel within five years.)

Then, the EPA released a “short list” of nominees for its Science Advisory Board Asbestos Panel, and public health advocates raised objections to the inclusion of several product defense scientists on the list. (Formal comments submitted to the EPA are available here.)

A webcast of tomorrow’s hearing will be available at the committee’s home page starting at 10:00 AM EDT.

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