The 30 Year Anniversary of Asbestos Almost Being Banned

The 30 Year Anniversary of Asbestos Almost Being Banned

This past Friday was the 30th anniversary of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) trying and failing to ban asbestos. Before trying to ban it the EPA had spent a decade and paid $10 million creating a 100,000 page report outlining the extreme danger of asbestos, with evidence showing that being exposed one time could cause someone to develop cancer. Under George H.W. Bush, the agency declared it would use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to virtually ban all products containing asbestos. After this, corporations that use asbestos as well as the chemical industry filed a lawsuit claiming that a ban would cost too much and that alternatives were costly and ineffective. In 1991 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the EPA, keeping many uses of asbestos legal and making it hard for the EPA to ban other chemicals.

More than one million Americans since 1989 have died due to preventable asbestos related diseases and cancers. Domestic production of asbestos has also ended, but 375,000 metric tons of the material have been imported into the country. While this goes on, 70 countries around the world have already banned asbestos due to the dangers that it poses to people, with it killing 40,000 Americans and up to 225,000 people worldwide every year.

In 2016 Congress passed legislation revamping the Toxic Substances Control Act. It was signed into law by President Obama and gave the EPA authority to ban asbestos. This is not helpful though because under Donald Trump, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler is laying the groundwork to find asbestos to be safe and legal.

In April, the new use rule was created, allowing certain already abandoned uses of asbestos to be used if approved by the EPA. When creating the new use rule, the top political appointees ignored calls by the agency scientists and lawyers who suggested a complete ban of asbestos.

There is a chance that asbestos could be banned with the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act. It would require the EPA, Labor Department, and Department of Health and Human Services to complete a comprehensive report assessing the amount of asbestos in different types of buildings. It would also require the measurement of the impact asbestos does to human health.

If you have mesothelioma or lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure you may be entitled to compensation. Call us at 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to an attorney and learn your options.

Alex Formuzis, “Trump’s EPA Flouting the Law in Effort To Keep Deadly Carcinogen Legal” Environmental Working Group (July 12, 2019). [Link]

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