Studies indicate that 15,000 Americans die every year due to asbestos-related diseases, but there are still plenty of products that contain asbestos. Even though a 1970 federal law classified asbestos as an air pollutant, the Environmental Protection Agency has only prohibited its use in a small number of products – and Congress has refused to ban asbestos generally.
One of the most common ways people become exposed to asbestos is at work. Here in Minnesota, we have identified workplaces all around the state where asbestos exposure was common even after the companies knew the danger and could have protected their workers.
The EPA’s strange stance
As a society, we need to know if there is ongoing exposure to asbestos or other harmful materials. The EPA is our main source for that information.
In 2017, however, the EPA took the stance that asbestos-tainted products are merely “naturally occurring chemical substances.” It said that companies producing such products no longer had to report them. When advocacy groups challenged that decision, the EPA went so far as to say it already had all the information necessary to make proper decisions regarding asbestos.
An array of environmental and health advocacy groups sued to challenge the EPA’s decision, followed by 10 states and the District of Columbia. The case has just been settled after a federal court ruled that the agency’s decision was “not an informed one.”
No further asbestos restrictions yet
Under the settlement, the EPA has agreed to resume collecting data from companies on how many of their products contain asbestos and how much asbestos is in them. The EPA is not required by the settlement to further restrict the use of asbestos, however. The agency has said it will propose a new rule within nine months and finalize it within 18 months, although it is not clear what that rule will entail.
Common products containing asbestos
The EPA might have stopped collecting the information, but the U.S. Geological Survey reported long lists of products containing asbestos in both 2015 and 2017. Examples include:
- Cement products
- Floor tiles
- Some woven or knitted fabrics
- Talc, which is used in some children’s toys and in makeup
If you have been exposed, talk to a Minnesota asbestos lawyer
Asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma. In the case of mesothelioma, asbestos exposure is by far the most common cause. If you have been diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer or mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer, distributor or retailer of the product that harmed you.
If you live in Minnesota, work with a local firm that has experience with the most common sources of asbestos exposure in our area.