Asbestos has a long, interesting – and ultimately tragic – history in the United States. Historically, asbestos has been used around the world for hundreds of years in a variety of products. Numerous societies discovered that asbestos has a number of useful physical properties. For example, it has tremendous tensile strength and is electrical and thermal resistant. It has also been greatly valued by industry because it is non-flammable. But a darker side developed – people started to become ill from long-term exposure to asbestos fibers. In fact, a great number of us are now aware of the potential harmful effects caused by asbestos, including mesothelioma. The law has evolved, although sometimes slowly, to help protect society from unreasonable dangers of asbestos. But have we done enough? Many are surprised to learn that asbestos has not been completely banned and that it is still used in numerous products to this day. This begs the question: Will asbestos ever be completely banned?
Steps in the Right Direction
Lawsuits – While lawsuits did not “ban” asbestos, they should not be overlooked. Successful legal actions put employers and others using asbestos on notice that they could potentially be held accountable for their wrongful conduct.
Legislation – In the early 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency started banning and regulating the use of asbestos. For example, many types of insulation and certain spray products containing asbestos were banned.
In 1976 the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed and has been amended numerous times since then. The TSCA plays an important role in prohibiting “new uses” of asbestos. It also contains other prohibitions against the importation or use of products containing asbestos.
The Consumer Product Safety Act has also addressed exposure to asbestos by recalling some consumer products containing the substance.
OSHA – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has highly regulated the way workers may contact and work with asbestos by creating numerous requirements designed to protect the safety of workers.
EPA’s Attempt to Further Ban Asbestos
At one point, the Environmental Protection Agency passed a regulation that would have gradually phased out almost all uses of asbestos. However, in a famous lawsuit, a federal court overturned the EPA regulation because it did not use the least burdensome, reasonable regulation required to adequately protect the environment, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Will Asbestos Ever Be Completely Banned?
This is largely a political question. After all, the harmful effects of asbestos are now well-known, and Congress could ban it, if it chose to do so. But given the amount of time that has passed since the last attempted ban, it seems unlikely to happen now. Several factors play a role. Certainly, there are powerful industries that prefer to continue using asbestos, and will continue to fight any attempts to further ban it. Additionally, some argue that there are insufficient alternatives and that the economic impact of a ban would be too high. Another argument is that asbestos is a natural substance, not something man-made like a chemical. Therefore, some people contend that we can control the dangers of asbestos, now that we know about them. Regardless of one’s position on any of these arguments, it cannot be refuted that people are still getting sick from exposure to asbestos.
Call for a Free Consultation
If you were exposed to asbestos in the past, or continue to be exposed to asbestos today, you are at risk for adverse health consequences. Above all, protect yourself by always following all safety precautions. However, if you still become ill, you will have questions. At Nelson, MacNeil Rayfield, we believe that the only way to protect all of society is to ensure that wrongdoers are held accountable for their negligent and intentional behavior. We are experienced asbestos lawyers and would be happy to answer your questions. We also would be happy to provide a free consultation. Please contact us if we can assist.
Environmental Protection Agency – federal bans: https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/us-federal-bans-asbestos
Clean Air Act Overview and Summary: https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-requirements-and-history
Summary of Toxic Substances Control Act: https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-toxic-substances-control-act
Consumer Product Safety Act: https://www.cpsc.gov/Regulations-Laws–Standards/Statutes
EPA Asbestos Laws and Regulations: https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/asbestos-laws-and-regulations