Asbestos Report Shows How We’re Losing the Fight Against Toxic Chemicals

Asbestos is a group of mineral fibers that cause great harm when released into the air. Because of their fire- and chemical-resistant properties, they were used extensively in the building and manufacturing industries. However exposure to asbestos can cause severe health issues, specifically with lung diseases. The Cleveland Clinic provides a thorough overview of the serious risks of asbestos exposure.   

From 1999-2017, 5,092 Louisianans died from asbestos-related deaths. 

If the dangers of asbestos were known since the 1930s and the mining of it ended in 2002, why are these chemicals still not banned in the United States?  

A new investigation from ProPublica attempts to highlight how we’re losing the fight against toxic chemicals because of an ineffective, underfunded regulatory system that is more than happy to bow to industry pressure. The following points reveal a history of failure by regulators and lawmakers in the pocket of industry giants who prioritize profits over the health of their employees and customers. 

The Chemical Industry Helped Write the Toxic Substances Law

  • The Problem: The Toxic Substances Control Act, enacted in 1976, should have given the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to ban or restrict toxic chemicals. Industry leaders were closely involved with drafting the law, which required the EPA to always choose regulations that were the “least burdensome” to companies.
  • The Result: Minimal oversight meant over 60,000 potentially dangerous chemicals remained on the market. 

The EPA Struggles to Regulate Adequately

  • The Problem: The United States follows a “risk-based” approach to regulation, which puts the burden on government officials to prove that a chemical poses unreasonable health risks rather than requiring manufacturers to prove that its products are safe. The EPA is also chronically underfunded and faces resistance from industry lobbyists and sympathetic lawmakers on every proposed evaluation.
  • The Result: The EPA did not try to ban other toxic chemicals for decades, feeling that it could only follow the “least burdensome” statute of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. 

The EPA Employs Chemical Industry Insiders as Regulators

  • The Problem: The EPA often hires scientists and top officials from the companies it regulates, which allows the industry to influence the agency’s science and regulatory powers. 
  • The Result: A toxicologist and lawyer hired by the EPA to safely assess the risks of certain chemicals argued that people could be safely exposed to a flame retardant at doses more than 500 times higher than the EPA standard. 

Reduce the Number of Hazardous Products in Your Home

While you may not be able to influence an entire industry to take the proper action, you can reduce the number of products that contain hazardous ingredients in your home. When shopping for regular everyday household items like cleaners, laundry detergent, dish soap and more, consider swapping for an environmentally-friendly natural product. The EPA’s Safer Choice program has more information but here are some ideas to get you started. 

  • Instead of drain cleaner, use a plunger or plumber’s snake.
  • Instead of glass cleaner, mix one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice with one quart of water. Spray on and use newspaper to dry. 
  • Instead of furniture polish, mix one teaspoon of lemon juice in one pint of mineral or vegetable oil and wipe furniture. 
  • Instead of rug deodorizer, liberally sprinkle carpets with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and then vacuum. 
  • Instead of silver polish, boil two to three inches of water in a shallow pan with one teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of baking soda and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge the silver and boil for two to three more minutes. Wipe away tarnish and repeat if necessary. 
  • Instead of mothballs, use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mints or white peppercorns. 

If long-term exposure to asbestos–or a related substance–has resulted in illness or injury and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.