Are Lobbyists Writing the Rules for Asbestos?

Earlier this year, the EPA announced new asbestos rules that it claimed would strengthen its ability to regulate the substance. However, the rules fell short of an outright ban. While more than 60 nations, including most of Europe, have banned asbestos, the United States continues to prop open different legislative loopholes.

The problem is that asbestos is a known carcinogen. It’s known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma. In fact, it’s the main cause of mesothelioma, a disease that claims roughly 3,000 American lives every year. Scientists and government officials have known this for decades, so why hasn’t the United States banned asbestos?

A Decision That Ignores Science

Shortly after the EPA released its most recent asbestos regulations, The New York Times reported that the agency ignored its top experts. Instead, the agency appeared to side with industry trade groups like the American Chemistry Council. The ACC claims that new regulations aren’t necessary because asbestos “can be managed.”

But more than a dozen EPA experts disagreed. According to the Times, these experts called on authorities to ban asbestos completely. They said:

  • The harm outweighs the benefits
  • There are reasonable alternatives to asbestos

For now, the EPA’s decision stops businesses from resuming some old practices, but it leaves the door open for future uses.

The Asbestos Transparency Act

An investigative report from USA Today, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity revealed another problem. It found that a staggering number of the bills that lawmakers introduce are given to them by industry lobbyists. And these bills often have deceptive titles, such as the Asbestos Transparency Act.

Based on the title, you might think the bill gives people a better idea where they might find asbestos. Instead, as USA Today reported, it blocks people from suing companies that expose them to the carcinogen. The bill says that before victims can sue companies for giving them mesothelioma, they must apply to an asbestos trust. That means an administrative delay that could consume the victims’ remaining days.

This isn’t a mistake. It’s a tactic. The bill, recently introduced in Colorado, was based off a model bill from the American Legislative Exchange Council. The organization’s sponsors include industry giants such as:

  • UPS
  • AT&T
  • Chevron
  • Farmers Insurance

Unsurprisingly, USA Today claimed the Asbestos Transparency Act was written by these corporations and insurance giants to limit their exposure to lawsuits. The bill failed in Colorado but has become law in 11 states.

Who helps the victims?

At the same time, people are dying. Corporations continue to use asbestos and expose people to harm. For now, victims have the right to sue. That right hasn’t yet been written away.