IAFF advocates for a nationwide asbestos ban in the US

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The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is backing a bill in the US aimed at implementing a nationwide ban on asbestos, hoping to reduce the asbestos-related deaths that affect dozens of fire fighters annually.

Fire fighters at greater risk due to asbestos exposure

Greg Russell, IAFF Governmental Affairs Representative, recently spoke at a congressional staff briefing on the proposed legislation.

He clarified that asbestos is a known carcinogen causing diseases such as mesothelioma and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries.

It’s particularly concerning for fire fighters who often face exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in their line of duty.

Russell said: “Fire fighters are regularly exposed to airborne asbestos fibres as they respond to fires and other hazardous situations, making them 200 times more likely to develop related illnesses than the general public.”

He added that occupational cancers are now the leading cause of death among fire fighters.

To address this, the union is actively seeking solutions.

Recent events underline the urgency for an asbestos ban

Highlighting the seriousness of the issue, Russell shared an incident from Richmond, Indiana.

Fire fighters from the Richmond Local 1403 were called to a warehouse fire insulated with asbestos.

While they managed to control the fire quickly, it lingered for several days, causing prolonged asbestos exposure.

Following the fire, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified asbestos particles on over 300 properties nearby.

Russell said: “The situation in Indiana illustrates why the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified firefighting as a Group 1 carcinogen.”

He urged lawmakers to prioritise the health and safety of fire fighters by adopting measures such as the proposed asbestos ban.

Global push for asbestos ban gains momentum

Currently, over 70 countries have prohibited the use of asbestos. Should the US pass the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, it would ban the import, use, and sale of asbestos.

Additionally, industries working with asbestos would need to switch to non-asbestos technology, a transition seen as economically viable and eco-friendly.

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, co-founded by Linda Reinstein, is leading a coalition in support of the bill.

Reinstein’s dedication stems from a personal tragedy, as her husband Alan succumbed to diseases caused by asbestos exposure.

She highlighted the significance of the legislation, mentioning that it aims to safeguard a broad spectrum of Americans, including vulnerable workers, first responders, and especially children.

IFSJ Comment

The support by IAFF for a nationwide asbestos ban sheds light on the pressing concern of asbestos-related health hazards, especially for fire fighters.

Exposure to this carcinogen has proven fatal for many, and the Richmond incident underscores the risk present in older structures insulated with asbestos.

With over 70 nations already enforcing a similar ban, the push for the U.S. to adopt this legislation is timely.

The move will not only protect the lives of our brave first responders but also benefit the broader community, reinforcing public health and safety standards.

About IAFF

The International Association of Fire Fighters, commonly known as IAFF, is an influential organisation dedicated to representing the interests of professional fire fighters and paramedics in the US and Canada.

They are committed to improving the working conditions of their members, promoting safety, and advocating for better community health and safety regulations.

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