We've all seen the commercials. "If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation."
While they may be a meme at this point, it's important to understand what exactly these ads are talking about. Asbestos is a mineral compound that humans have been mining for nearly 4,000 years. However, more recently, many companies began including it in clothing, furniture, and in buildings as a flame retardant, which just means that it keeps things from burning.
It was used in everything from children's clothing to crayons, warships to buildings, and so on. However, what was initially unknown and then later suppressed was the fact that, when asbestos flakes and breaks into dust form and gets into your lungs, it leads to several extremely deadly types of cancers, including mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer.
While medical journals first began talking about asbestos-related illnesses in the early 20th century, it wasn't until the 1980's that the legal system found that the asbestos companies had misled their workers, as well as consumers, about the risks asbestos posed to their health, which led to the bankruptcy of the 25 largest asbestos manufacturers over the next few decades and the largest mass legal action in the history of the United States.
According to documentation released by "Lloyd's," it's believed that payouts in cases relating to asbestos will be between $200 and $275 billion. While there is no express federal ban on asbestos, there are regulations in place from the Environmental Protection Agency that make the companies that use asbestos to report it on the product, along with the hazards it brings, while individual states have laws that allow funding for the removal of asbestos through abatement and outright ban the substance. Despite that, though, it is still estimated that over 1 million people in the U.S. alone are at a high risk of mesothelioma and other diseases from asbestos exposure.
You may have seen pieces of paper posted on the doors of older buildings that talk about how certain rooms will be under abatement, when the abatement will be taking place, and who will be doing it. I personally saw this at my high school during my junior year, when they removed asbestos floor tiles, and in the science building at my college. It makes sense to do these things. Put things up to let people know what's going on, place restrictions on asbestos manufacturers and distributors, make it so people hurt by these companies lying to them can get some financial retribution, etc. However, under new proposed rules from the EPA, that all could change.
The Trump Administration has prided itself in its ability to reduce and remove regulation, whether it be the removal of net neutrality, the reduction of power of the Clean Air and Clean Water initiatives, or even the use of hazardous materials in the industrial setting or in consumer products. Their newest, and possibly most controversial, is the relaxation of asbestos rules.
According to the "New York Times" on August 10, 2018, top EPA officials pushed through a new measure that would allow companies to petition the EPA to allow them to include asbestos in consumer products they produce. The "Times" also reported that this was an extremely divisive move, with many current and former EPA officials actively lobbying against the rule change both during its proposal and following its public reveal.
The EPA, it would seem, believes that the current rules limit a company's ability to compete, seeing as how effective asbestos is in reducing fire and electrical damage and its extremely cheap price. However, they will be doing so at the already-proven risk of creating more harm to consumers and workers.
Back in the day, before everything we knew about asbestos had come to life, the EPA and the Trump Administration could have feasibly gotten away with this, simply stating that they, too, were unaware of the hazards asbestos posed, but in today's world, with millions afflicted by mesothelioma and other diseases directly caused by asbestos exposure, to make it easier for producers to include the substance would be like loosening regulations on the amount of lead permissible in drinking water.
While there are still many safeguards against asbestos, even with the new guidelines in place, any leeway allowed on a dangerous subject such as this is opening the door to something even bigger and so much worse.
The purpose of this piece is to inform you on what exactly you're looking at. It's important to know what's going on, especially if it's big and scary and hard to understand. That makes it even more important to know because what you don't know can and will be used against you.
Knowledge is power, so this is my attempt to keep power in your hands. I hope I did my job well enough to at least get the ball rolling. Please go and read up more on asbestos, mesothelioma, the laws and regulations about asbestos in your state, and what the EPA is doing. The more you know, the less they control you.