Asbestos is a flameproof but highly dangerous material. It was used for decades in many military and domestic items, from battleships to children's pajamas. It was found nearly everywhere because it made most products stronger and longer lasting, and resisted high heat and even fire. But, asbestos is also the only cause of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer. It can take 20-50 years before symptoms appear.
1989: EPA Passes Asbestos Ban to Protect Americans' Health and Safety
On July 12, 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned almost every use of asbestos in U.S. products because of the great risk to human health caused by exposure to asbestos. At that time, millions of Americans had been exposed to asbestos in the home, at school, on the job, and in the military. The EPA said it was time for this to stop. Health advocates cheered but manufacturers did not.
Since asbestos was used in paint, floor tiles, acoustical ceiling tile, pipe and duct wrap, insulation, boilers, brakes and brake pads, caulk, and cement (to name just a few), this affected many industries. They could no longer sell their asbestos-containing products to homeowners and other consumers, or to the government or the U.S. military.
Profits Over People: Manufacturers Fight the Ban
After the EPA's ban was announced, asbestos-containing products were no longer allowed to appear on store shelves and in government supply depots. This meant loss of profits. For decades, manufacturers had knowingly hidden the health risks of asbestos-containing products from the U.S. government and the public, in order to make money selling their products. After the ban, they did not want to stop making money even though they knew asbestos could cause deadly diseases.
The manufacturers fought back with a lawsuit in federal court. Just 2 years after the ban, the manufacturers won their lawsuit in the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans. Many of the banned asbestos-containing items were now allowed back on store shelves.
Common Products Sold Today Still Contain Asbestos
Over 3,000 products may contain asbestos. Today, a number of products are still sold in the U.S. that contain asbestos, including common building products such as roofing felt and vinyl floor tiles. Many of these products do not carry a warning label. Owners might pay to have asbestos floor, ceiling, and roofing materials safely removed from their home, school, or place of worship or business, and then unknowingly have new asbestos-containing products installed as replacements.
Sokolove Law believes it is time for a new ban on asbestos-containing materials being manufactured and sold in the U.S. Over 50 other countries, including all 27 member nations of the European Union, have already banned asbestos from all consumer products.
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