Revisiting the History of Asbestos

Thirty years ago this past month – specifically July 12, 1989 –the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned most products that contained asbestos. Initially, it was a product introduced as innovative for its durability and fire resistance. It’s use gained prominence in construction materials, pipes, fertilizer and car parts throughout the 1900s and peaked in the 1970s.

The ban represented a milestone in acknowledging asbestos’ deadly dangers and the carcinogen’s role in fatal diagnoses of mesothelioma. Two years later, the decision was overturned and replaced by partial bans and restrictions. Manufacturing continues to this day.

Stories have focused on workers exposed to the deadly fibers whether they were handling it or working in environments where it existed. However, spending Sunday at church, going to a movie theater, getting a haircut, or even visiting a loved one in a hospital still presents potential health risks.

Many of those seemingly safe public buildings contain significant levels of asbestos. Family homes seem to be the only safe haven.

Yet, they’re not.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million workers nationwide are exposed to asbestos at work. Most exposure results from construction and remodeling projects that wind up unearthing the carcinogen laying dormant for decades.

Many states have stepped up, pleading with the Environmental Protection Agency, not to necessarily end the near three-decade ban of the initial ban, but to increase awareness of the dangers. The EPA denied that petition and the group responded with demands for new regulations.

Not even the presence of asbestos in public schools can change the hearts and minds of federal agencies. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 provided guidelines in dealing with asbestos in their facilities. Schools must have a management plan in place with inspections occurring every three years and notifications to parents and teachers on an annual basis.

The deadly dance continues with few safe, asbestos-free havens surviving, let alone victims suffering from fatal diseases, including mesothelioma.

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