The READ Act and Asbestos: A Call for Transparency

by Sokolove Law

The 114th United States Congress began in January 2015, and in this young session, we’ve already seen legislative steps taken to help limit future harm from asbestos. Recently, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation that would help Americans avoid exposure to the deadly substance by increasing the amount of publicly available information on where asbestos is found.

The Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Disease (READ) Act aims to ensure that Americans have access to clear, up-to-date information about where asbestos is located and which products contain asbestos. You can read more about the READ Act on Congress’s official website here.

Similar to laws that require food labels to list ingredients, the READ Act would allow consumers to see which products are manufactured with asbestos—providing them with the ability to avoid potentially exposing themselves and their families to the deadly substance.

If products contain asbestos, Americans can choose not to purchase those asbestos-containing products or any products from a company that still uses asbestos. Furthermore, Americans can choose not to work for companies that still use asbestos. If there are certain locations in the U.S. where asbestos is known to be an issue, Americans can protect their families and choose not to live in those areas. All companies have to do is tell us.

In Sharp Contrast to Other Legislation Introduced

While the READ Act fights for transparency when it comes to asbestos in our country, another recently introduced bill—the FACT Act—does not live up to its name. Don’t be fooled by the FACT Act’s full name—the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act; it only seeks to delay, deny, and reduce the rights of asbestos victims. The FACT Act would require a victim’s medical and other personal information to be released to defendants. This will cause a delay for these terminally ill victims while defendants continue to have no obligation to be transparent about their use of asbestos and claims made against them by other asbestos victims.

While the FACT Act is trying to make things more difficult, the READ Act is trying to educate the public to let people decide what is best for their families and avoid becoming victims of asbestos. The proposed legislation asks that companies share information pertaining to the manufacturing, processing, distribution, and use of asbestos-containing products. This would essentially make it law for companies to deliver on their claims of transparency. The result? Consumers would be able to avoid exposure to asbestos, potentially making asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma a thing of the past.