One year ago, a key staff member of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urged the agency to take immediate action to ban cancer causing asbestos from a broad range of comsumer products. Today, the agency [WORD ILLEGIBLE] finally consider to act.
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"The commission is incapable of responding effectively to hazardous consumer products in the market place," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) yesterday in releasing the year-old staff recommendation for immediate steps against consumer products containing asbestos.
"When the commission acts it is usually under duress in response to a complaint brought by an outside consumer group and often after prolonged delay months and sometimes years of regulatory delay and litigation . . .
"I am appalled that the commission has waited over 12 months to respond to these very damaging conclusions by their own staff scientist."
On April 2, 1976, Robert M. Hehir, director of the agency's bureau of biomedical science, wrote: "Because of the long latecy period [widely recoganized as approximately 20 years] between exposure to asbestos and clinical recognition of asbestos-related diseases, including cancer, and due to the fact that the effects of asbestos inhalation are cumulative [the bureau] believes the commission must act to prevent unnecessary exposure to free asbestos in consumer products . . ."
He recommended "an immediate course of action" to ban asbestos from all consumer products in which it is not bound, or locked, such as in plastics and cements.
It was not the first request to the commission for action on products containing asbestos. A New York man had written the commission in August, 1975, after publicity over findings of asbestos in patching compounds. In November of that year a free lance writer, Rachel Scott, urged action against asbestos containing artificial ashes used to decorate fire-places.
Then in July, 1976, the Natural Resources Defense Council asked the commission to ban the use of asbestos in spackling compounds; the council was unaware at the time, of the Hehir recommendation.
Recently, Scott, frustrated in trying to get action from the commission, got the Environmental Defense Fund to represent her, and the two requests are scheduled for consideration today.