In 2016, the United States Congress joined forced with President Barack Obama to take a step towards eradicated mesothelioma: they passed a law that allowed asbestos to be placed on a list of hazardous chemicals to be reviewed for safety, and potentially banned outright. But with the arrival of the Trump administration, many had feared that the law would be defanged, and yesterday those fears were realized as the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would limit its review to products still being manufactured and entering the marketplace.
Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in the United States in a variety of occupational settings, but whose use was heavily curtailed when it was discovered to be the cause of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Though there have been efforts over the years to ban its use entirely to protect against further exposure to the toxic material, the chemical industry has pushed back and defeated each of these moves. The 2016 law had been health advocates’ greatest hope, but with the new administration’s loyalty to the chemical industry, that hope has now been dashed.
According to a spokesperson for the EPA, the measures that are already in place are enough to protect the public against the risk of mesothelioma, and the new law was unnecessary. They pointed to respirators that are available to protect against breathing in asbestos fibers. But the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health disagrees with that assessment, and points to a 2015 study that showed firefighters being diagnosed with mesothelioma two times more frequently than other people living in the United States. Tony Stefani is one former firefighter who has been diagnosed with cancer: speaking of the new EPA decision, he said, “I believe the chemical industry is killing firefighters. When I entered the department in the early ’70s, our biggest fear was dying in the line of duty or succumbing to a heart attack. Those were the biggest killers, not cancer. But we work in a hazardous-materials situation every time we have a fire now.”
Health experts estimate that over 45,000 people have died of mesothelioma between 1999 and 2015, and more are expected to die each year. Occupational safety experts had hoped that the new law would slow this rate, but the administration has put an end to that hope.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and need to know about your legal rights and available resources, contact us today. We can be reached at 1-800-966-2244.