While more than 50 countries around the world have banned the use of asbestos, you may be shocked to learn that the U.S. has not. In fact, as of 2018, the U.S. continues to import and use asbestos in a variety of products. Despite definitive proof that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases, there are no current plans in place to ban it here.
No Ban After More Than 50 Years
Medical researcher Dr. Irving J. Selikoff proved the link between exposure to asbestos and lung disease as long ago as the 1960s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Dr. Selikoff’s defining research motivated federal agencies to begin taking steps toward asbestos regulations. In the early part of the decade, both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) moved on regulations, and by 1979 announced their intent to regulate asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Asbestos Industry Pressures Legislators
Fearing an outright ban, the asbestos industry pressured the Reagan administration to curtail the EPA’s efforts, but to no avail. In 1989, after an empirical 10-year study conclusively confirmed Selikoff’s initial findings, the EPA announced its plan to phase out and ban 90 percent of products that contained the highly toxic asbestos.
The plan fueled a lawsuit by the asbestos industry and, in 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit determined that the EPA failed to “prove that a ban was the ‘least burdensome alternative’ for controlling the public’s exposure” and threw out most of the EPA’s rules.
The Danger Remains
Despite the proven fact that there are no safe levels of asbestos to which people can be exposed, the industry continues to lobby Congress to kill or weaken legislation focused on banning asbestos. The EPA ban now in place still allows the following products to contain asbestos as long as the substance doesn’t make up more than 1 percent of the product’s weight:
- Car parts, such as brake pads, clutches and gaskets
- Fire safety products, including fire blankets, fire curtains and spray-on fireproof coatings
- Lab equipment, including fireproof gloves and jackets
- Talcum powder, which can be found in certain hygiene and makeup products
- Construction materials, such as insulation, plaster and floor tile
- Fertilizer as well as some potting soil products
You Have Rights
Despite the absence of a total asbestos ban, if you or a loved one have been exposed to asbestos or have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, you still have rights. It’s critical to contact a personal injury attorney to understand those rights and to discuss compensation that may be available to you. For more information, you can contact us online or call us at 866-503-4864.