After a few decades of controversy, asbestos has largely fallen out of the public spotlight. Regulations enacted in the late 1980s seemed to quell the public’s concerns about asbestos, and society has moved on to worrying about other environmental issues. The truth is, however, that asbestos is still very much a problem in this country, especially considering how frequently it was used in buildings throughout most of the last century. Here are five things you need to know about asbestos:
1. Asbestos is actually still legal.
Remember those regulations? Only two years after the EPA ordered industries that use asbestos to phase into a different material, producers and manufacturers of asbestos filed a case against the EPA. The court actually sided with Big Asbestos, overturning most of the bans that the EPA ordered. This means that most industries are still allowed to use this material.
2. Asbestos-related diseases are more prevalent and deadly than skin cancer.
In society today, we have a serious problem with skin cancer and we talk a lot about the need for better sun protection and treatments. Mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other lung cancers caused by inhaling asbestos fibers are deadlier than skin cancer, and yet they somehow get far less press.
3. There is no such thing as a safe level of asbestos exposure.
Unlike radiation, sunlight, and even things like pesticides, there is simply no level of exposure at which it is safe to be exposed to asbestos. Even a single fiber inhaled into the lungs is enough to cause cancer and other serious issues.
4. Asbestos-containing products are often imported to the US.
While more than fifty countries actually do have very real and enforceable bans on asbestos use, asbestos is still being imported to the US every day. Over eight million pounds of asbestos waste was delivered to the US in just the last ten years.
5. Asbestos is in just about everything.
That may sound paranoid and almost like a conspiracy theory, but before the EPA’s ten-year study about the dangers of this product, it was widely used in construction, appliance manufacture, and even fabric. It is a great insulator that is resistant to flame, which made it an ideal choice for insulation in buildings, stoves, as filler in cement, and in outer clothing like coats and jackets.