Highland Park, N.J. –  At a press conference held this morning  at the Insulators Local 32 Union Hall, in Highland Park, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) called for legislation that would fully ban asbestos.

Mr. Pallone was joined by Dr. H. Richard Alexander, Chief Surgical Officer at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, C.J. Gesemyer from the Insulators Local 89, Tom Klukosky from United Auto Workers Region 9, and Mike Schneider from Insulators Local 32. Highland Park Council Member Stephany Kim-Chohan was also at the press conference. 

 Mr. Pallone discussed legislation, The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, which he and other Congressional representatives introduced in March.  The bill would ban the production, use and importation of asbestos.  Asbestos is known to be a leading cause of mesothelioma, lung cancer and other chronic respiratory diseases.

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“It has been forty years since the EPA began to ban asbestos. Today, asbestos exposure still claims the lives of about 40,000 Americans every year. Enough is enough – it’s time to fully ban this toxic and deadly substance and I believe the only way that will be possible is by passing this legislation,” Mr. Pallone said on Monday.

Mr. Pallone cited a 2015 report, stating that  New Jersey has the eighth highest asbestos-related deaths.  From 1999 to 2013, the same report estimated 128,000 to 160,000 people in the United States died from asbestos exposure, including 9,395 in New Jersey.  Last year a new report found that those figures were low, and in fact nearly 40,000 Americans die from asbestos exposure every year,  according to Mr. Pallone’s office.

Last week,  a bill introduced by Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak that banned the sale of asbestos containing products was signed into law.

The new State law bars any individual from selling or disseminating any product which contains asbestos in New Jersey. Anyone who violates the tenets of the bill would be subject to a fine of up to $2,500. The law will also allow the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to seek an injunction against the violator.

 The impetus  for the new State law and the legislation introduced by Mr. Pallone’s is a recent decision made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics to allow for the manufacture of new products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis.

 “It has been known for many years that the main risk factor for developing mesothelioma, a rare and complex cancer, is exposure to asbestos,” said H. Richard Alexander, Jr., MD, Chief Surgical Officer at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

“At Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we provide the expertise and coordination of care necessary to tackle this disease and are working closely with colleagues around the country to develop better diagnostic and treatment options. Coupled with a reduction in environmental risk factors that contribute to the development of mesothelioma, there is an opportunity to improve patient outcomes,” said Dr. Alexander.