No One is Safe from Asbestos

Asbestos is easy to forget about. If you do not work with materials that contain asbestos, you could believe that it is no longer a problem at all. You could think that it was banned decades ago and that there are only a few older workers from industrial plants, shipyards and similar occupations who remain at risk to asbestos-related diseases.

You may be a professional, who works in an office or perhaps a doctor or lawyer. You never mess with dirty, industrial processes, so you probably think there is no chance that you could ever develop mesothelioma. After all, you have never been exposed to asbestos dust, and inhalation of asbestos dust is the principal means of exposure.

While the proposition that you have to have been exposed to asbestos fibers to develop mesothelioma or some other asbestos-related illness, it no longer seems to be the case that you have to have worked in some heavy industrial occupation where asbestos was omnipresent, or even have worked construction or auto repair, where you could also have had occasion to encounter asbestos.

Worryingly, there seem to be more and more cases like a woman who lost her father to mesothelioma, but is uncertain how he inhaled the asbestos. He did not work in the typical asbestos industries; he was a salesman.

But his father and grandfather worked old factory, where there could have been asbestos, which could have been brought home on their clothes. He, innocently give them hugs upon their return home from work could have allowed him the necessary exposure to the deadly asbestos dust.

However, you may believe that cannot happen anymore, asbestos has been banned for decades in U.S., hasn’t it?

What is remarkable about asbestos is that it just doesn’t go away. No, we don’t mean the fact that the mineral, which is in the form of needle-like structures that can become friable and then airborne in dust, waiting to be inhaled and settle deep in your lungs.

No, not that part of “never goes away.” What is remarkable is the persistence of the use of asbestos. Despite it virtually single-handedly inventing the class of legal actions known as mass torts, and in spite of billions of dollars paid to victims and their families, the industry continues fighting every attempt at effective regulation, as if it will suddenly become benign if they pay off enough lobbyists.

And despite the fact that the death toll continues to mount every year, many people still believe that the substance has been banned in the U.S. and no longer poses a real threat to anyone who didn’t work in a shipyard during WWII. They are not aware there is even a problem.

But there is.

The Ban Asbestos in America Act was introduced in 2007. It never became law. And the Senate sponsor gave up after a few more years. She had been attempting to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which would have included asbestos regulating language, but that, too, appears to be unlikely to pass. With the incoming Congress, legislative proposals to reduce corporate responsibility for asbestos are much more likely to receive a vote.

Advocates for the victims of asbestos know that one thing is certain, no matter how Congress acts, and that is that the problem of asbestos is not going to go away. The K-Street lobbyist can’t change the chemical composition of asbestos and its deadly effects.