The Environmental Working Group estimates that more than 12,000 people die each year in the US from asbestos exposure and 255,000 people all over the world. The most significant toll is on the people who have to work with asbestos on the job, accounting for 90% of the total number of deaths.
Health hazards regarding this mineral emerged 40 years ago when it became known that asbestos causes mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and cancer of the larynx and ovaries. Since then, the use of asbestos has dropped dramatically, with more than 50 countries banning the mineral. Still, the US is the only developed country that has not put a total ban on the mineral.
Moreover, imports of asbestos have been soaring during the past months, with the mineral being found in many day-to-day products, such as baby powder. According to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Environmental Working Group imports have increased by almost 2,000% on the July-August 2018 period. The highest increased was noted in August when 272 metric tons of chrysotile asbestos were imported in the US.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tried to ban asbestos in 1989, the asbestos industry filed lawsuits and the federal courts ultimately overturned most of the ban. But now, with the latest policy and administration changes within the EPA, people fear that asbestos manufacturing might come back.
Is asbestos coming back?
In June 2018 the EPA released the significant new use rule or SNUR which requires companies to notify the agency if they plan to import or manufacture out-of-date asbestos products such as floor tiles or roofing felt. The EPA would review the plan and either approve or deny it.
In fact, the SNUR allows companies to use asbestos without considering how the chemical endangers the people who come in direct contact with the mineral.
Critics fear that this new rule will open the door to new uses of asbestos, which is already used in far too many products such as automobile clutches, brake pads, roofing materials, and cement piping. According to the federal law, these products can be produced as long as asbestos account for less than 1% of the product’s composition. But the rule does not apply to imported products which may contain a higher percentage of asbestos.
What does President Donald Trump have to say about the asbestos issue?
President Trump has never been on the side of the EPA and asbestos bans. Back in 2012 he even tweeted that the Twin Towers wouldn’t have burned down if the powerful retardant asbestos hadn’t been removed from the World Trade Center. In 1997 he also wrote in his book ‘The Art of the Comeback’ that his opinion was that the anti-asbestos efforts were led by the mob.
With the new regulation, the US will see more approved uses of asbestos, without considering its presence or effect in the air, water or ground, nor the health hazards that the workers handling asbestos are exposed.
In the new light of asbestos regulations, Uralasbest, one of the largest manufacturers and sellers of asbestos in the world, has used Trump’s face on its asbestos pallets next to the words “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States”. The company even published the images of the asbestos pallets in a Facebook post, thanking the president for his support regarding the recently departed head of EPA, Scott Pruitt, who said that the agency would no longer deal with the potential side effects of asbestos.
In this light, the cases of lung cancer and mesothelioma will continue to increase in the US without a comprehensive ban on the use, export, and import of asbestos.
Gregory A. Cade is one of the best lawyers at ENVIRONMENTAL LITIGATION GROUP, P.C. He has an experience of more than two decades and has so far represented thousands of claims from people who have developed an illness or have been injured in an occupational or environmental setting. Mr. Cade likes challenges and believes that every case has a solution no matter how demanding it might be.