Asbestos Is Harmful – Ban the Use of Asbestos in America

Many countries including Australia, UK, Canada, and the European Union’s 28 countries across the world have banned the use of asbestos in construction and other types of work. Asbestos exposure can cause long-term health issues like mesothelioma. Due to its long latency period averaging over 40 years, these illnesses are not diagnosed until many years after exposure. 

Asbestos can also cause certain types of lung cancer and other chronic respiratory conditions.

In the 1970’s the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) placed limitations on exposure to asbestos and other toxic pollutants for many Americans, but no laws to completely ban the use of asbestos. 

U.S. Attempts to Effectively Ban Asbestos 

For many years in U.S. history, politicians and lawmakers have debated if banning asbestos is the most effective option for reducing the harm caused by asbestos as it has been affecting people across America since its use became popular at the turn of the twentieth century. 

In fact, “In 1928, the first descriptions of asbestos disease were published, showing X-ray changes among 15 individuals exposed to asbestos in the American Journal of Roentgenology” according to the authors of the informative book, Toward an Asbestos Ban in the United States, Richard A. Lemen and Philip J. Landrigan.

There were many legislative options that were considered in the 1970s and the 1980s. Some of these include:

  • The Clean Air Act of 1970 – Classified asbestos as a dangerous and hazardous air pollutant and granted the EPA regulatory powers regarding the use and disposal of asbestos. Any asbestos products that could be spray-applied were banned when this act took place. 
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – Provided the EPA authority to restrict certain chemicals, such as radon and asbestos. 
  • The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 – Established EPA standards for inspecting schools and removing any asbestos found.

During the 1970s and 1980s, many federal changes were made regarding asbestos. However, many corporations and legislators prohibited the complete ban of asbestos in certain materials. Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created and capable of restricting the use of asbestos, rather than banning use completely.

The EPA restricted the use of asbestos to flooring felt, rollboard, commercial paper, corrugated paper, specialty paper, and restricted any new use of asbestos. Any spray-applied asbestos or any use of asbestos in the aforementioned circumstances is restricted, but any other use can be permitted.

This is a loophole that allows for use in automotive brake pads, gaskets, roofing products, and fireproof clothing. 

Modern Attempts to Ban Asbestos in America

After several years of outrage over the increasing number of Americans who have had their long-term health affected by asbestos, there was more pressure than ever to pass legislation that will effectively ban the use of asbestos in preventable and humane ways. In 2002, the U.S. Senate attempted to pass the Ban Asbestos in America Act, but it failed to pass. 

This piece of legislature included creating a network of research and treatment centers, keeping more accurate records of diseases related to asbestos, and research for a cure for mesothelioma. It also proposed that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Institute would review the available data on asbestos-related diseases, the effects that asbestos may have on health, and recommend new areas of research that should be added to our general knowledge of asbestos-related diseases.

This law was never intended to actually ban the use of asbestos all-together, though. When reintroduced, the line banning asbestos in “any product to which asbestos is deliberately added or used…” was removed. 

The Likelihood of Banning Asbestos in America

Researching asbestos throughout the 20th century has shown the use of asbestos in the construction of buildings and cars can lead to serious health implications for Americans many years after initial exposure. A school survey conducted in January 1984 found “…one third of U.S. schools have asbestos problems, and that two-thirds of these have either acted to correct the problem or are in the process of voluntarily correcting it.”

Despite the prevalent asbestos in older buildings, resources to safely remove and dispose of asbestos are often lacking.

This leads to a continued increase in mesothelioma cases in America because schools and businesses are not legally bound to banning the use of asbestos.

In 2005, the World Health Organization suggested a ban that would reduce the growing number of mesothelioma cases and other diseases that are related to asbestos. They claimed that all 190 nations within the scope of their organization will stop using asbestos by the year 2020. 

Creating an Effective Asbestos Ban Worldwide

Effective legislation for an asbestos ban may take decades to procure. The public health benefit of a ban would far outweigh the industry costs.

A global asbestos ban will require the cooperation of multiple government entities with opposing interests.