Challenges and Progress in Mitigating Asbestos Exposure

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Challenges and Progress in Mitigating Asbestos Exposure

by ICC on March 3, 2020
March 3, 2020 / by / in

Asbestos has been mined for over a century in the U.S. and other countries. Despite knowledge of its danger in causing debilitating diseases and death since the early 1900s, mining continued in the U.S. 

Additionally, many asbestos products continued to be imported into the country for decades, largely ignoring the threat to human life. This article examines a few of the challenges posed in eliminating exposure to this toxic material, and the progress made in the course of such efforts.

Asbestos – a lucrative mining product

A massive drawback in criminalizing the mining of asbestos has been its commercial value. Touted as a miraculous mineral due to its desirable properties, its varied use made it highly profitable. Asbestos is extremely flame-resistant, is very strong and flexible. These properties ensured that it was useful in many housing materials as insulation and for fireproofing.

Additionally, asbestos has been added to textiles and vehicle products where friction resistance is desired, such as brakes, clutches and transmission parts. It has been used as coatings for a myriad of manufactured items where fireproofing is required. Shockingly, it has also been found in coloring crayons made for children, and in makeup products made for teenagers. 

The many commercial applications of this chemical have made it problematic to limit or eliminate its applications. Moreover, many jobs were created in this industry, posing more challenges to bringing the mining of this chemical to a stop. Profitability has, therefore, been a major challenge in diminishing the hazards of toxic exposure, despite the carcinogenic effects on humans.

From identification of asbestosis in 1906 to acknowledgment in 1972

The dangers of exposure to asbestos and asbestos dust slowly became apparent over the decades. Taking up to 50 years to develop into full-blown diseases, complicated its identification as a highly toxic material to human health. The first case of asbestosis was identified in 1906, but it was only in 1972, a full 66 years later, that the government stepped in.

A few standards were then implemented by the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Labor Department. These measures required medical observation, protective clothing, warning notices, and several others. 

During 1989, the U.S. EPA or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made attempts to achieve a complete ban on this chemical. These efforts followed the realization that a major number of the 100,000 children’s schools in the U.S., together with over 700,000 U.S. buildings contained asbestos.

Corrosion Proof Fittings was one of the large companies that instigated legal action against the EPA’s attempts to ban asbestos. The company was successful in getting the ban lifted. Since this time, a large number of companies have eliminated the use of asbestos in their products due to the severe volume of health consequences posed by continued use.

2016 Introduces advances in recognition of toxic asbestos

Only in 2016 did Congress finally apply important regulation changes concerning asbestos toxicity. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was updated, providing the EPA with the necessary leverage to outlaw toxic substances, unlike the 1989 court ruling against the EPA. 

Further progress has since been achieved in elimination of asbestos usage across the U.S. Due to the complexity of the laws linked with this asbestos industry, its products and the threats faced by exposure to this chemical, Congress took the decision to eliminate its use altogether. 

In positive mesothelioma news, all asbestos was totally banned during March of 2019, enabling the EPA to more fully protect the U.S. people from all toxic materials. 

Further challenges and progress in relation to asbestos exposure 

The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019, in conjunction with the H.R. 1603, delivers a complete solution to the banning of asbestos. This bill doesn’t tolerate any exemptions, exceptions or exclusions to the acknowledgment of the toxicity of asbestos, highlighting welcome progress in this matter.

Greater knowledge of the dangers posed by asbestos exposure has become more mainstream. Improved knowledge has highlighted the threats of exposure, furthering the drive for the complete elimination of this product from society.

Until asbestos use has been removed from human habitat, many remain at risk, and occupational risk of exposure in construction and related industries. Prevention through safety measures remains key to the elimination of diseases caused by this chemical in the interim. Primary cautions in the presence of suspected asbestos remain that it should not be disturbed or touched and that a professional should be called in to manage the situation.