In June, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shared a proposal to reintroduce natural mineral asbestos to manufacturing. Sure, the term "natural mineral" doesn't sound that ominous at first, but the decision could actually mean bad news for many workers, and regular citizens. So, is asbestos dangerous? Let's just say the regulations were there for a reason.
After health risks were discovered in the 1970s, the United States introduced strict regulations about asbestos-containing products, due to the material's known carcinogenic effects. However, things could be changing since in June. The EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics proposed an updated framework that would allow "new uses" of asbestos, called the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR). The rule would allow "special uses" of asbestos and asbestos-containing products, and is already controversial because of all the negative impacts it has on citizens and the environment.
According to the Mesothelioma Asbestos Awareness Center, asbestos is a natural mineral that contains six different silicate minerals. In the past, the mineral was used in many manufacturing projects, because of its special properties, particularly its fireproofing abilities. However, as the use of the product increased, its health risks started becoming more apparent to those around it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "all types" of asbestos are extremely dangerous, and can cause "lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs)." The organization points out that both construction workers handling asbestos and people who live and work in buildings containing asbestos may be at risk.
However, the United States has not definitively banned asbestos, as other countries such as the U.K. and Australia have. Instead, the material is only heavily regulated — regulations that are apparently about to loosen.
Although the thought of asbestos being used again ignited controversy among the public, the EPA hasn't changed or finalized anything as of yet. Once the proposal surfaced, the government agency released a "federal registrar notice" describing a bit more about what SNUR entailed.
EPA is proposing a significant new use rule (SNUR) for certain uses of asbestos (including asbestos-containing goods) that would require manufacturers and importers to receive EPA approval before starting or resuming manufacturing, and importing or processing of asbestos. This review process would provide EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use of asbestos and, when necessary, take action to prohibit or limit the use. In the absence of this proposed rule, the importing or processing of asbestos (including as part of an article) for the significant new uses proposed in this rule may begin at any time, without prior notice to EPA.
In short, the EPA would allow new uses of asbestos in commercial products, pending review. However, there's still a problem — according to Snopes, while evaluating the risk of using asbestos and asbestos-containing products, the EPA will reportedly not take into account information from the way asbestos has already been used in the United Staes, meaning its known effects on health likely won't be factored in. In June, the New York Times reported that in most cases of assessing the danger posed by chemicals, the EPA was not including potential exposure caused by the substances' presence in the "air, ground, or water."
So, while considering allowing "special uses" of asbestos and products, the EPA may not consider its cancer-causing effects on humans and the overall harm it can do to people's health.
In a statement to Elite Daily, an EPA spokesperson characterized reports as "inaccurate" and said that new asbestos use would have to be approved by the EPA. The statement read,
Without the proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) EPA would not have a regulatory basis to restrict manufacturing and processing for new asbestos uses. The EPA action will prohibit companies from manufacturing, importing, or processing for new uses of asbestos covered by the rule unless they receive approval from EPA.
The EPA may be the ones spearheading this historic change, but Donald Trump himself has openly defended using asbestos in the past. Rolling Stone reports that in his 1997 book The Art Of Comeback, Trump suggested that the mineral is actually "safe once applied," and then went on to claim its reported dangers was thanks to mob-related companies, who he said made money from its removal. You can't make this stuff up.
Trump reportedly wrote in the book,
I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented.
If even the mob doesn't want asbestos around, that feels like it should be a sign. Just another day in 2018.