Asbestos Regulation – is the United States Treading a Dangerous Path?
The United States has often been referred to as the leader of the free world. While that is debateable, there is no doubting that the United States is a global superpower, with significant influence and power over other markets.
That is why recent news from across the pond concerning the use of asbestos has a lot of people very worried.
Last week Vanity Fair ran an article entitled ‘Trump’s Plan to Make America Great Again Involves Giving His Constituents Cancer’.
What the article refers to is the United States Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA)’s highly controversial proposal to introduce a new framework, or ‘Significant New Use Rule’, that could allow new uses for asbestos in manufacturing.
While the use of asbestos has been banned throughout the European Union since 2005, asbestos has never left the United States. Unlike other developed nations, the United States has never banned the use of asbestos, but has instead chosen to tightly regulate it. It is still allowed to be used in products including gaskets, roofing materials and sealants. While the EPA’s proposals do not openly roll back the current regulations, they seem to make it possible for companies wishing to use asbestos to apply to the EPA to use it in different ways. Not surprisingly there is concern that it might make it easier for asbestos to come back into more widespread use. The EPA is required to regularly re-evaluate the harmfulness of toxic materials but the New York Times has disclosed internal emails which suggest that top officials at the EPA pushed through the changes, despite objections from their own scientists and lawyers.
This is despite the fact that the US surgeon general has said there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and vast amounts of research has confirmed the link between asbestos and diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Asbestos is a cheap, effective, strong and fire-resistant building material but there can be no doubt whatsoever that its positive properties are far outweighed by its devastating effect on health and clearly identified carcinogenic qualities. Deaths from asbestos related conditions continue to rise but it was hoped an end to the asbestos crisis was in sight following widespread bans, tight controls and wider awareness.
While these latest developments in the United States may not directly affect the UK, the worry is that other countries may follow suit. If the US, as a world leader, refuses to ban the use of asbestos and is re-evaluating its use, why not? President Trump has openly praised the virtues of asbestos and claimed in his 1997 book ‘The Art of the Comeback’ that ‘the movement against asbestos was led by the mob’ because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal.
Asbestos is big business built on corporate lies and cover ups. It is well documented that the hugely profitable asbestos industry knew that asbestos could kill decades before they admitted it and used their considerable financial and political influence to cover it up, prioritising profits over human lives. Now that we know its effect and the lengths these companies will go to for corporate greed, the only logical thing to do is to push for a worldwide ban to prevent further unnecessary suffering. Any country which allows the relaxation of hard fought asbestos regulations is setting a very dangerous precedent.
If you’ve been affected by asbestos and would like legal advice or assistance, contact Wolferstans on