Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral substance that has played a role in various industries for decades or, in some cases, centuries. However, modern medical science has drawn a direct correlation between asbestos exposure and several severe illnesses, including cancers like lung cancer and mesothelioma.
The federal government currently states that there is no safe exposure level for asbestos. Workers need extensive protection if they are to handle asbestos on the job. If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its way, businesses may soon need to cease using asbestos entirely due to a complete federal ban.
What has the EPA suggested?
The EPA both suggests guidelines and then enforces those guidelines once they become law. The agency has recently announced it intends to renew efforts to protect the public from asbestos. Lawmakers have known about the dangers of asbestos for decades, but they have failed to fully ban the use of the substance. Companies still use asbestos to manufacture items like brake pads and chlorine bleach.
If the proposed rule goes into effect, it would end all industrial use of chrysotile asbestos, which is the only form of asbestos legally used in the United States currently. This isn’t the first time the EPA has talked about banning asbestos, with earlier attempts dating back to 1989. The previous rule was overturned through the courts.
This current effort has more than two decades of additional medical and scientific information to back it, so the EPA could finally achieve its goal of eliminating this potentially deadly substance from American factories and homes.
A ban won’t immediately reduce asbestos illnesses
The sad truth is that even if the asbestos ban goes into effect within weeks, there will still be hundreds if not thousands of future cases of asbestos-related illnesses still to occur. These conditions frequently take years if not decades to manifest. In the case of mesothelioma, maybe 20 or 30 years, sometimes even longer, before someone is sick enough for doctors to diagnose them.
Workers who have handled asbestos in recent years may not fall ill for many years after the ban takes effect. Their care will be expensive, so they will likely need to look into compensation options at the time of their diagnosis, and their employers may need to earmark funds for possible future worker claims even if they eventually go out of business.
Keeping apprised of legal changes that could affect those with asbestos-related illnesses makes it easier for people to seek justice for the medical impact of their profession.