Asbestos Legislation in the United States
The United States lacks a comprehensive law regarding asbestos exposure, despite the known dangers. Individual states, however, often have their own more strict laws about handling claims and risks.
Though there are federal laws to provide compensation for coal miners with black lung disease (pneumoconiosis), such as with the Black Lung Benefits Act which was established in 1972, no such programs exist for workers exposed to asbestos.
There have been considerations regarding both asbestos abatement and reducing the ability of plaintiffs to receive needed compensations for asbestos-related injuries at the federal level.
Two federal agencies responsible for the enforcement of the legislation of asbestos abatement are OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency). Both agencies have been involved in the shaping of asbestos abatement litigation in the United States.
The Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act (FACT) has been especially threatening for workers exposed to asbestos. It would require that “upon written request, and subject to payment for reasonable costs, a trust must provide information related to payment from, and demands for payment from, the trust to any party to an action concerning liability for asbestos exposure.” Presently, state and federal laws see these negotiations as both confidential and private affairs and not discoverable or admissible in cases brought before court.
A Brief History of Asbestos Litigation and Use
By this time, research had linked asbestos exposure and diseases. Despite this, manufacturers warned neither workers nor the public about the negative health implications of using and working with asbestos as it saw continued use in construction and in industrial products.
The dangers of asbestos exposure did not receive larger attention until the 1960s and 1970s due to the long latency period. By this time, the hazards were too widespread to sweep under the rug.
The United States Government developed guides to limit exposure to asbestos which were adhered to by local, state, and federal laws.
Asbestos abatement, which was the focus through the late 1980s, involved sealing or removing the mineral from buildings. Laws also called for a ban on the substance.
1990 to Present
The Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007, sponsored by United States Senator Patty Murry (D-Washington), was not ultimately signed into law by Congress. In 2009, a Bill she sponsored culminated in September 26 being recognized as National Mesothelioma Awareness Day. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on June 1st of 2018, which, if passed, could call for the review and approval of new asbestos products.
Most mesothelioma lawyers are paid only if and when you are awarded compensation. This is known as a contingency fee.
The Clean Air Act of 1970
The Clean Air Act, which finds regulations from the EPA dictating how asbestos is used and disposed of, has seen a number of amendments since it was passed in 1970. Under this law, Congress established asbestos as a toxic air pollutant and has seen many amendments since.
Other measures protecting the public and workers have followed this act, including OSHA, occupational safety regulations, and the Consumer Product Safety Act.
The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976
The EPA was given regulatory powers over new commercial chemical products with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Regulation of other material that pose environmental or health risks — like asbestos — was also granted by the act.
In 1989, the EPA attempted to ban the manufacture, process, import, and distribution of asbestos products with the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule. A consortium of corporations, the Asbestos Information Association of North America (AIA/NA), lobbied in court against the rule. In 1991, much of the rule was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals – Fifth Circuit.
Banned Asbestos Uses
- Commercial paper
- Corrugated paper
- Felt flooring
- Specialty paper
- Any new (after 1989) uses for asbestos
Uses for Asbestos That Are Not Banned
- Asbestos-cement corrugated sheets
- Asbestos-cement flat sheets
- Asbestos-cement pipes
- Asbestos-cement shingles
- Automatic transmission components
- Brake blocks
- Clutch facings
- Disc brake pads
- Drum brake linings
- Friction materials
- Linings (non-roof)
- Roof coatings
- Roofing felts
- Vinyl-asbestos floor tiles
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986
This law, which mandated that the EPA monitor asbestos in schools, set standards for asbestos abatement and inspections.
All schools are required to inspect buildings for asbestos and to have plans for its removal if found.
The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994
The Act, which was an amendment of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, allows companies found to be liable to seek protection from future asbestos claims by way of special bankruptcy trusts.
The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2006
The FAIR Act’s purpose was “to provide timely, fair compensation to claimants whose health has been adversely affected by exposure to asbestos, on a no-fault basis and in a non-adversarial manner.”
The act would have established a Department of Labor Office for asbestos claims and assisted with deciding fair compensation. The Act, however, was never signed into law.
The Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007
Similar to the FAIR Act, versions were presented in Congress, but did not become law.
It would have revised the definition of asbestos, created scientific studies regarding asbestos and disease, and given the EPA a greater role in regulating products.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019
If the bill passes, it will “ban the mining, importation, use, and distribution of asbestos.”
The Significant New Use Rule
A 2018 rule put forth by the EPA requiring notice before chemicals are used in new and concerning manners. Some are concerned that SNUR will put people at risk for exposure to a known-to-be dangerous element.