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Asbestos-Containing Products Still Manufactured Today

Throughout the past century, asbestos had been manufacturers’ favorite material, with more than 4.000 products containing the mineral at the time. By World War II, asbestos-containing materials were found in American ships, planes, vehicles, factories, hospitals, schools and homes across the nation. Later on, asbestos showed up in products everywhere, from fireproofing and fire prevention materials to drug store cosmetic counters.

Asbestos and health risks

There is mounting evidence showing that asbestos-containing products have been responsible for a number of asbestos exposure incidences. According to the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services, there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Inhalation of airborne small fiber-like particles is detrimental to human health, already being demonstrated that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic to humans. Epidemiological studies have shown that exposure to asbestos may cause a number of severe lung diseases, some even fatal. Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure, around 4,800 deaths per year. Asbestosis, another primary disease associated with asbestos exposure, is a non-cancerous respiratory disease usually disabling or fatal. Evidence suggests that cancers in the esophagus, larynx, stomach, colon, ovaries, prostate, and kidney can also be caused by asbestos exposure.

Past attempts to ban asbestos

The fight to ban asbestos in the U.S. has been a long journey. In the second half of the 20th century, American health authorities became aware that asbestos is carcinogenic. In the coming decades, asbestos seemed to resist U.S. legislation.

  • The Clean Air Act of 1970 classified asbestos as a dangerous air pollutant and gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to set regulations on the use, management and removal of asbestos
  • In 1973, EPA bans the use of spray-applied surfacing asbestos-containing material for fireproofing and insulation materials. In the following years, EPA also forbade the use of asbestos from more products, including wall patching compounds, artificial fireplace embers, boilers, hot water tanks, boilers.
  • The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 authorized EPA to force asbestos producers and users to control packaging, handling, storing and disposing of asbestos-containing materials. The regulation was withdrawn in only two years, lifting the initial ban on asbestos products.
  • In 1989, the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule which planned to impose a full ban on the manufacturing, importation, processing and sale of asbestos-containing products. The regulation has been criticized and pointed to job loss and economic consequences. Although the ABPR remains the best attempt at a federal ban of asbestos, the legislation was short-lived due to the counterattack from the asbestos industry.

Is asbestos likely to be banned in the near future?

Asbestos is still not banned in the U.S. Unfortunately, the use of this toxic mineral in all asbestos-containing products marketed before 1989 is still legal and continues to pose immense risks. Furthermore, asbestos-containing products continue to be manufactured even today.

In 2018, EPA released a significant new rule proposal (SNUR) which would allow the agency to prevent new uses of asbestos-containing products. The SNUR, a mechanism within the Toxic Substances Control Act, requires manufacturers to notify the EPA before asbestos is used in ways that might create concerns.

Potential new uses for asbestos subject to SNUR:

  • Arc chutes
  • Beater-add gaskets
  • Extruded sealant tape and other tapes
  • Filler for acetylene cylinders
  • High-grade electrical paper
  • Millboard
  • Missile liner
  • Adhesives, sealants and roof and non-roof coatings
  • Pipeline wrap
  • Reinforced plastics
  • Roofing felt
  • Separators in fuel cells and batteries
  • Vinyl asbestos floor tile
  • Other building materials

Critics of the proposed rule say that the agency’s actions aren’t as protective as they should be despite an apparent increase in regulation. Health advocates maintained that this rule can lead to more cases of asbestos exposure.

No safe exposure

Despite knowing its harmful aftereffect, asbestos is still used in some U.S. industries. There is a wide range of prominent sectors using asbestos products today, including:

  • Consumer product manufacturing
  • Residential, commercial and industrial construction
  • Automotive and heavy equipment manufacturers
  • Aircraft and aerospace construction
  • Shipbuilding and ship repairing

Risks of existing asbestos

Asbestos was used in almost every public and commercial building constructed before the 1980s in the U.S.  Asbestos could be in any part of a building, from floor tiles to rook sheets, toilet seats to wall panels. Working in and around these buildings presents a risk of asbestos exposure for homeowners and professional tradespeople.  Persons who intentionally or unwittingly disturb asbestos-containing materials can cause asbestos fibers to be released into the air, putting anyone who inhales these fibers at risk of developing debilitating asbestos-related diseases. People who renovate or demolish buildings that contain asbestos may be at significant risk, depending on the nature of the exposure and precautions taken.  Due to the significant risks associated with unlicensed asbestos removal, it is recommended to contact a certified company to help you remove asbestos-containing materials in a safe manner.

About the author:

Gregory A. Cade is the principal attorney at Environmental Litigation Group P.C., a reliable law firm focused solely on asbestos exposure cases. His expertise and reputation in these cases derive from a successful track record that spans more than two decades. Gregory A. Cade work consists in representing injured victims and their families with the purpose of obtaining substantial recoveries.