Asbestos was once a very popular component for everything from Navy vessel components to brake pads. This cheap mineral substance is useful as both a fire retardant and an insulator. Unfortunately, when workers or consumers inhale particulate asbestos, they notably increase their risk of becoming ill. Federal regulatory agencies now recognize that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure for workers.
The use of asbestos in modern products has dropped significantly in recent years, in part due to an increase in federal regulations. As business executives and the general public became more aware of the risk asbestos created, there was also more demand to phase this mineral substance of different domestic production processes.
Products that long contained asbestos have transitioned to different materials both to make them compliant with consumer safety regulations and to avoid the risks involved with employee exposure. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intent to pursue a total ban on asbestos in domestic manufacturing facilities. Does that mean that companies have stopped using asbestos?
All signs points to the opposite occurring
With an EPA ban looming and the possibility of major industry changeovers on the horizon, you might think that manufacturers who still use asbestos would want to invest in transitioning away from their dependence on asbestos quickly. However, they have taken the opposite approach, buying up and stockpiling huge amounts of asbestos.
The amount of asbestos imported in the first quarter of 2022 was higher than the total amount imported in all of 2021. That is a strong indicator that there are many businesses that intend to keep using asbestos for as long as they can, out of their own reserves if necessary. It will be decades before society will know the total cost of theese choices.
Asbestos is quite dangerous, but the people exposed to it don’t become sick right away. It takes decades for mesothelioma to develop, and it may take many years for other conditions, like asbestosis or lung cancer, to show symptoms. Until all domestic companies have phased out asbestos-based manufacturing processes, there will be more people who end up sick because of this known carcinogen.
Understanding the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma can help those exposed on the job get compensation for their condition.