The dangers of asbestos exposure have long been known, yet many countries, including the United States, still import and use a common form of the toxic mineral.
Known as “white asbestos,” chrysotile asbestos is a form of the mineral used most widely in commercial applications, despite being linked to about 40,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Chrysotile asbestos is still used by chlorine manufacturers and companies that make vehicle braking systems and sheet gaskets.
Given the known risks of asbestos exposure, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a ban on chrysotile asbestos.
What a Ban Would Mean
In April 2022, the EPA proposed a rule that would prohibit the manufacturing, processing, importation, distribution in commerce, and commercial use of six categories of products containing chrysotile asbestos. This would cover all uses of chrysotile asbestos in the United States and would address consumer exposure to this form of asbestos.
However, there are five other types of asbestos fibers that would not be banned under this new rule. Many other countries have banned all types of asbestos, but in the United States, these other types could still be imported into the United States after an EPA review.
Why Is a Total Asbestos Ban Necessary?
While fewer workers in the U.S. are exposed to asbestos now than in the past, asbestos poses a significant health threat to workers in certain professions, including firefighters and maintenance workers who spend a lot of time in old buildings. Asbestos is also still present in 30 million homes and is used in consumer products such as children’s toys and cosmetics.
In December 2020, the EPA issued a risk evaluation for chrysotile asbestos and concluded that it poses unreasonable risks to workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and others.
According to advocates, anything less than a total asbestos ban fails to protect the health of all workers in the United States. Nearly 70 countries have already banned asbestos.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a group of six types of minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers that can be separated into thin, durable threads for use in commercial and industrial applications. Because the fibers are resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals, and do not conduct electricity, asbestos has been widely used by manufacturers in a variety of products. The construction industry has used asbestos for strengthening cement and plastics, while the automotive industry uses it in vehicle brake shoes and clutch pads. Asbestos is also used in ceiling and floor tiles, paints, adhesives, plastics, and a variety of other commercial products.
The main forms of asbestos are chrysotile (white asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos).
What are the Hazards of Asbestos Exposure?
If products containing asbestos are disturbed, tiny fibers are released into the air that can then be inhaled by humans. If breathed in, the fibers may get trapped in the lungs where they will remain for a long time. This can cause scarring and inflammation, which can impact breathing and lead to serious health problems.
Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen (i.e. a substance that causes cancer) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). All forms of asbestos – including chrysotile – are carcinogenic to humans.
Asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, is linked to serious diseases and health issues, including:
- Mesothelioma, a relatively rare cancer of the thin membranes that line the chest and abdomen
- Cancers of the lungs, larynx, and ovaries
- Asbestosis, an inflammatory condition that affects the lungs and can cause permanent lung damage
- An increased risk of cancers of the stomach, pharynx, and colorectum
- Other nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders
How We Help Victims of Asbestos Exposure
Seek justice with the help of our experienced asbestos attorneys. For over 20 years, our asbestos law firm has represented individuals like you, affected by asbestos exposure, aggressively fighting the corporate giants responsible for their dangerous products. If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos or suffer from a disease caused by asbestos, like mesothelioma, we can help.