International Association of Fire Fighters Urges Congress to Pass Asbestos Ban

fire fighter extinguish home blaze

Despite being banned in more than 70 countries, asbestos remains legal in the United States — but the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now (ARBAN) Act seeks to change this.

ARBAN calls for a sweeping ban on the United States’ import, use and sale of asbestos, a dangerous carcinogen known to cause mesothelioma and other serious illnesses.

In a recent Congressional briefing, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) urged Congress to pass ARBAN and ban all types of asbestos.

The IAFF’s support of the act is crucial as the association represents more than 341,000 fire fighters and first responders nationwide. Sadly, fire fighters are 200 times more likely to develop cancer from exposure to asbestos and other toxic substances on the job.

In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified fire fighter occupational exposure as a group 1 carcinogen, putting it on par with tobacco due to its cancer-causing potential.

As a result, many fire fighters have sought justice for the devastating illnesses they developed from toxic occupational exposures.

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IAFF Calls for “Decisive Measures” on Asbestos

During the presentation to Congress, IAFF Governmental Affairs Representative Greg Russell described the gravity of asbestos dangers by recounting a warehouse fire in Richmond, Indiana.

The building contained asbestos insulation materials and took several days for the crew to extinguish, exposing first responders to high levels of asbestos.

More than 300 properties nearby were contaminated with asbestos fibers from the blaze, endangering the lives of innocent civilians as well.

This warehouse fire in Indiana is just one example of serious asbestos risks, but the risk is far-reaching, with an estimated 25 million homes in the U.S. still containing asbestos.

“On behalf of the IAFF and its members, I urged the congressional staff to make good on their responsibility to the current and future generations of fire fighters by taking decisive measures like banning asbestos to protect their lives,” wrote Russell after speaking with Congress.

How Fire Fighters Are at Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was widely used between the 1930s and 1980s, especially in home construction materials, because it was durable, inexpensive and heat-resistant. From ceiling tiles to insulation, asbestos was used in over 3,000 different household and industrial products.

Unfortunately, when these products break down, asbestos fibers can be released into the air and breathed in or swallowed by anyone nearby. When a house built with asbestos products catches fire, it can speed up this deterioration and release a dangerous amount of fibers.

Fire fighters must respond to emergencies at older homes without enough time to learn if asbestos was used somewhere on site or adequately protect themselves from asbestos.

“Since asbestos is a substance that’s not an issue unless disturbed in some way, there’s no way for them to know before they arrive if it’s in a building’s tile glue, ceiling tiles, etc.”
– Spokesperson for Austin, Texas Fire Department

As a result, fire fighters are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma than the general population.

The Risk of Other Cancer-Causing Materials

In addition to asbestos, fire fighters may often be exposed to other dangerous chemicals on the job as well. Known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) has been linked to over a dozen types of cancer, including bladder, kidney and prostate cancers.

Sadly, PFAS is used in both fire fighting foam and protective gear, the very things meant to keep fire fighters safe.

Did you know? Simmons Hanly Conroy is one of the three PFAS Law Firms chosen by the IAFF to fight for first responders who developed severe illnesses after PFAS exposure.

Understanding the ARBAN Act

In March 2023, ARBAN was reintroduced to Congress, following extensive advocacy work by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). Linda Reinstein, ADAO’s president and co-founder, named the bill after her husband Alan, who passed away from mesothelioma in 2006.

The U.S. still uses and imports asbestos at shockingly high levels, with over 114 metric tons imported in just the first three months of 2022. ARBAN would halt the import and use of all types of asbestos in an effort to prevent future asbestos exposure and protect people from asbestos diseases.

For the last 6 months, ADAO has worked tirelessly to advocate for a full asbestos ban. While the act won’t remove asbestos still remaining in older buildings, IAFF believes the ban is an important step toward safeguarding future generations.

Helping Fire Fighters Exposed to Toxic Substances

As a leading mesothelioma law firm with over 20 years of experience, Simmons Hanly Conroy is committed to helping asbestos exposure victims and their families get the support they deserve.

Our asbestos lawyers have a proven track record of supporting fire fighters and union workers with asbestos-related illnesses from exposure on the job.

We’ve recovered over $8.8 billion in total mesothelioma settlements and verdicts across the country.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we may be able to pursue justice and compensation on your behalf. Get a free legal consultation now to learn more.

Simmons Support Team
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View Sources
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  6. International Association of Fire Fighters. “IAFF Supports a Nationwide Asbestos Ban.” Retrieved from: Accessed on September 6, 2023.