The EPA is now allowing for asbestos to be used in manufacturing again. In fact, asbestos sold by a Russian company is actually branded with the President’s face. What does this mean for workers? Potentially this would be bad, real bad, for many workers in manufacturing and frankly anyone who may come in contact with asbestos.
For decades it has been common knowledge that exposure to asbestos causes Mesothelioma (a fatal cancer of the mesothelial lining in the lungs). In fact, it is estimated that each year 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States, with 40,000 annual deaths attributed to exposure to asbestos.
Here is a vivid description of how asbestos effects the body posted by a user on Reddit:
Imagine swallowing a big handful of straight pins. Now instead shrink them down until they’re microscopic. Now multiply the number you had by tens of thousands (if not millions, billions, etc. Difficult to truly get a reasonable scale here). That’s what’s happening to your lungs when you inhale asbestos fibers.
This is what you’re dealing with. You inhale it, it goes through your airways causing microtears which lead to inflammation. That’s not a huge deal until it happens on a large enough scale (such as asbestos exposure). To make things worse, it will stick into the linings of your airways, lungs, etc. It doesn’t go away. Everywhere they stick in is going to be permanently inflamed. Chronic inflammation can damage your DNA and can lead to cancer. A lot more goes into it than that, but you can safely say chronic inflammation is bad news regardless of why it’s happening.
Another way of thinking of it: asbestos is like a splinter that will never go away. Except now you have millions of them and they’re all throughout your airways.
In other words, this is a substance that literally kills people, and has been known to kill people for decades. While exposure to asbestos may provide workers’ compensation benefits and tort recovery for the exposed worker and/or his family, it would be better for all to simply not be exposed to the substance at all.
The EPA’s rule on asbestosis is the just the latest move by the agency that increases the risk of workers’ being exposed to toxic substances on the job. While former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was forced out over numerous charges of petty corruption and became a laughingstock and lightening rod for critics of the Trump administration, Pruitt’s anti-workplace safety agenda continues under much less controversial successor.
In a bit of positive news for workplace safety, last Thursday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. It will be interesting to see if the ban is challenged and the outcome of a potential Supreme Court case.