(based on… – https://www.maacenter.org/asbestos/ban/)
Here the word asbestos, and feel fear and trepidation. It’s not a fear without foundation. Asbestos is responsible for causing cancer in various parts of the body particularly in the lungs, as well as asbestosis which causes lung fibrosis. So, all in all, it’s a material, to be respected as a major hazard.
That said you’d imagine that now that the risks of asbestos have been known since the 1970s that there would be an outright ban in almost every country. However, whilst, at least 60 countries have banned asbestos, there are still 70% of countries such as the U.S. which shockingly continue to use the mineral in various capacities today.
Despite being a known carcinogen, however, asbestos is still being used in approximately 70% of the world today, including the United States. At least 60 countries have already banned the toxin, but there is still a lot of work ahead to see a complete ban. Unfortunately, despite the EPA trying to get a ban implemented in the 1980s, it was over turned by the court of appeal in 1991 and products containing under 1% asbestos are still legally sold. There is renewed hope however, since the Lautenberg Act was passed in 2016 the way has been cleared to implement a full ban. It’s a fight which has been decades in the making and as yet unsuccessful, but there is hope that a complete ban will be in place soon.
Whilst asbestos is heavily regulated to protect the public and workers, there is simply no safe level of asbestos and restrictions are simply not enough to protect those who are exposed to it. It’s simply no longer acceptable given how much is known about asbestos related disease and mesothelioma for a full and outright ban in all countries not to be implemented.
Whilst acts such as the Clean Air act, and the safe drinking water act and the toxic substance control act of the 70’s and 80’s have done much to reduce the presence of asbestos and other harmful chemicals in the U.S. In 2002 Senator Patty Murray put forward the Ban Asbestos in America Act. Which became known as the Murray Bill. It was rejected for 5 years, but finally made it through congress in 2007 but was sadly blocked by the House of representatives. It would, had, it been implemented, have outlawed importation, manufacturing, and distribution of asbestos. As such it would have dramatically altered statistics which predict that at least 20 million Americans wil develop mesothelioma and asbestos related diseases.
A breakthrough was achieved in 2016 when President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical safety for the 21st Century act which provided new powers for the EPA to reduce asbestos products and set deadlines for enforcement. Crucially, it also increased transparency around providing chemical information to the public and granted authority to regulate chemicals on their health and environment risk. Thus, the EPA was required to submit a priority list which posed a threat to public health of ten chemicals for evaluation.
Happily, in late November asbestos was added to that list and the risk evaluation will be finished in three years whereby a determination will be made as to whether an unreasonable risk is posed to the public and the environment. Following this, the EPA must mitigate the risk as they see fit within a deadline of two years which with luck may point to a complete ban. From research already carried out, a ban is long overdue, given what the EPA has already uncovered, namely that at 36 facilities, 25.6 million pounds of friable asbestos waste was managed in 2015 and that asbestos in the air was typically 10 times higher in cities than rural areas. Whilst many countries have implemented a complete ban on asbestos, there’s still a considerable journey for authorities to make before it is banned worldwide. Many advocates of a ban are watching the Trump administration with dismay given that it has already proposed that EPA’s budget be cut by a staggering 31% leaving it at its lowest for 40 years. Certainly not a ringing endorsement of the dangers of chemicals and in particular asbestos to public health.