We all know that asbestos is harmful to human health. But even with this knowledge, the march to completely banning it has been tough. There are groups that benefit financially from its continued use, and this has made it easier for some to turn a blind eye.
With that said, there are some signs that change is on the way.
Before we consider what might come in the future, we think it is important to look back at past efforts that have been made to regulate the use of asbestos and protect people from its harmful effects.
Timeline of US Legislation on Asbestos
1970- Clean Air Act
The Environmental Protection Agency was given the authority to regulate the use and disposal of asbestos by the Clean Air Act of 1970. With this piece of legislation, various uses of this mineral were banned, including its use in spray-applied products and as a product for pipe insulation.
1976- TSCA Gives EPA Authority to Ban Chemicals
In 1976, the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act gave the EPA the authority to restrict the use of harmful chemicals. Among the substances included in the legislation, notably listed were radon, lead and asbestos.
1986- AHERA Requires Inspection and Removal of Asbestos from Schools
With the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, the EPA was tasked with making guidelines for the inspection and removal of asbestos-containing materials from school buildings.
1989- Asbestos Banned
In 1989, the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule. Using its regulatory authority, the EPA would have been able to prohibit the processing, manufacturing, and importation of asbestos-containing products.
1991- Asbestos Ban Overturned
The ban put in place by the EPA was met with strong opposition, claiming that it was an attempt to regulate the industry out of existence. Manufacturers that use asbestos countered the ban by filing a lawsuit against the EPA, and in October of 1991, the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the ban.
2001- Ford Creates Doubt Using Scientific Research
After losing several lawsuits from autoworkers claiming to have developed mesothelioma as the result of working on brakes that contain asbestos, Ford invested in research in an attempt to cast doubt on the connection. The research has not been well-received by health experts, and it is widely seen as an attempt to save money at the expense of workplace safety.
2007- Ban Asbestos in America Act (The Murray Bill)
First introduced by Senator Patty Murray of Washington in 2002, the Ban Asbestos in America Act would have been an almost complete ban on the distribution, importation, manufacturing, and processing of asbestos materials. While the bill was able to pass the Senate in 2007, it failed to make progress in the House of Representatives.
2008- Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act
Named for Congressman Bruce Vento, who died from Mesothelioma in 2000, this bill would have amended the TSCA to include a ban on a wider range of asbestos products. Introduced in 2008, the bill failed to pass Congress.
2016- TSCA (amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act) Legislation Requires Review of Asbestos
With the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the TSCA was amended to require the EPA to review and evaluate chemicals that are already in use. Asbestos is listed among the first group of chemicals to be reviewed under the requirements of the new law.
The Wait Has Been Long Enough!
Many countries have already taken the needed steps to ban the use of asbestos. In most places, this is seen as a common sense measure to protect citizens from a substance that is harmful to health. While many attempts have been made in the United States, as of this writing, they have all failed. With the EPA taking new action to review the uses of asbestos, we think that it is time to finally ban this harmful chemical once and for all.
Even if there is an asbestos ban in the near future, it is unfortunate that it has taken this long. So many people have had to suffer with asbestos-related diseases, when the dangers have been known for such a long time. If you have been exposed to asbestos, you should know that you have rights and that there is help out there. To learn more about your options, contact Landry & Swarr for a consultation.