HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. – Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. is calling for a ban on asbestos, a “toxic and deadly” substance he said most people are surprised to learn is still used in construction today.

“Today, asbestos exposure still claims the lives of about 40,000 Americans every year,” Pallone said. “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.”

Pallone, who made his comments inside the offices of Insulators Local 32 on Cleveland Avenue, said insulators and other construction professionals are at particularly high risk for health-related complications associated with asbestos exposure.

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Pallone (NJ-06) has reached a critical juncture. His push to ban asbestos has been met by a recent push back from the Trump administration.

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, H.R. 1603, would ban the production, use and importation of asbestos. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler committed to banning asbestos last month at a hearing with Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Pallone serves as chairman.

One week later, however, the EPA issued a new asbestos rule that fell far short of a ban.

The committee held a hearing on Pallone’s legislation banning asbestos once and for all. The proposed legislation is led by Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Pallone.

Although it’s been 40 years since the Environmental Protection Agency cracked down on the production and use of asbestos, Pallone said it is still being imported from countries such as China and it is widely used to insulate boilers, pipes and for other parts of buildings and homes.

Pallone on Monday 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, Council Member Stephany Kim-Chohan from Highland Park, and Mike Schneider from Insulators Local 32

Alexander said asbestos exposure has been known for many years to be “the main risk factor” in developing mesothelioma, a rare and complex cancer. “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.”

Pallone cited a 2015 report that ranks New Jersey as having 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.