There have been widespread suspicions about the dangers of asbestos for more than a century and scientific consensus on its status as a carcinogen for decades. Despite knowledge about the dangers of asbestos, numerous industries in the United States have continued to use this dangerous, naturally-occurring mineral resource for products.
Although it was once a popular inclusion in brake pads and insulation, the biggest domestic use of asbestos currently may be in the production of sanitation products. Now that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a pending ban at the federal level for asbestos, businesses have started to react to this possibility.
Instead of starting a changeover now to avoid disruptions in production later, they have instead redoubled their asbestos purchasing.
Import records show a surge in asbestos entering the United States
While many people would hope that the pending EPA ban would diminish domestic demand for asbestos, it has so far had the opposite effect. Businesses have started stockpiling asbestos, as evidenced by data about how much asbestos has entered the country.
The United States International Trade Commission reported an increase in how much raw chrysoltile asbestos manufacturers imported in early 2022. In 2021, there were 100 tons of this carcinogenic substance imported into the United States. In the first three months of 2022, companies brought in 114 metric tons of asbestos.
This large amount of asbestos could mean that companies will be able to continue producing asbestos-based products for months or even years after the asbestos ban goes into place. While the EPA may prevent them from importing any more asbestos, they will likely be able to use whatever they have on hand before complying with the ban.
The chances are good that this surge in imports will continue. The result may be that thousands of additional workers have ongoing asbestos exposure at the very same time that the EPA has finally started to take action to limit this risk.
A ban would likely strengthen worker rights
With the EPA taking more drastic measures to protect workers because former limitations have not gone far enough, it may become even easier for workers sickened by asbestos to receive compensation. Those diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other debilitating medical conditions associated with asbestos may have grounds for claims against their former employers.
These claims can help them cover their medical care costs and support their family despite their health concerns. Keeping track of the current policies related to asbestos can help those dealing with asbestos-related illnesses better understand their rights.