As much of the modern world is now painfully aware, asbestos is an indiscriminate killer. Used heavily in dozens of industries throughout much of the 20th century, asbestos has killed thousands of Americans over the last several decades, many of the workers who came into direct contact with asbestos while on the job.
In fact, recent estimates show that nearly 40,000 Americans continue to die each year from causes related to asbestos exposure, including:
Despite widespread awareness of how dangerous asbestos can be, there remains widespread misunderstanding about how the U.S. government regulates and controls this toxic mineral.
The truth is that many Americans wrongly believe asbestos has already been banned in the U.S. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. To this day, asbestos remains at-large.
Here are 10 reasons why asbestos should be banned in the U.S. immediately.
1. The U.S. Has Been Left Behind by the Rest of the World.
The United States is behind the times when it comes to asbestos regulations. Around the world, 67 other countries have already banned the carcinogen, including Canada, the vast majority of Europe, and a host of other developed nations.
Unfortunately, America now stands side-by-side with China and Russia as one of the few heavily industrialized nations that has chosen not to act on an asbestos ban. In fact, under President Trump, asbestos imports into the U.S. have increased.
The science behind how asbestos kills people is not up for debate. Other countries have acted upon this knowledge by banning asbestos. The United States must act now to save thousands more from unnecessary death.
2. Safer Alternatives Exist.
According to a report featured by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there are many safer, available alternatives to asbestos.
The report lists more than a dozen alternative substances, all of which do not have the trail of death and destruction that asbestos has left behind.
Why then don’t more American companies switch to materials that would save thousands of lives?
The short answer is because those safer materials would cost corporations roughly 10-15% more than it costs them to use asbestos.
The continued use of asbestos in America is a business decision. It can be more aptly described as companies prioritizing profits over human lives.
3. Asbestos Lingers.
A common myth is that people are safe from asbestos exposure because the products that contain asbestos are kept undisturbed and concealed inside of walls, floors, and insulation, for example.
This myth does not take into account the fact that an overwhelming majority of American buildings constructed before the 1980s were built using asbestos-containing materials. So, what happens when renovations take place? Or a building starts to break down naturally over time?
Such activities have caused what experts refer to as the “third wave of asbestos-related disease.” Renovation and construction workers, as well as skilled laborers and abatement professionals, get exposed to asbestos while completing building projects on older buildings.
Furthermore, just because asbestos is removed from an office building, residence, or school does not mean it is not causing harm. Workers must transport the substance to landfills where they — and others — can still suffer exposure.
4. Asbestos Can Be Tracked Into the Home and Endanger Entire Families.
Known as “take-home exposure” or “second-hand exposure,” asbestos fibers can cling to a worker’s clothing and be transported from their worksite to their home.
From there, children and spouses can be unwittingly exposed. Mesothelioma in children is rare, but early exposure to asbestos has been shown to increase the chances of developing mesothelioma later in life.
5. Asbestos-Related Diseases Put an Enormous Financial Burden on the Healthcare System.
By 2004, asbestos payouts to victims of asbestos-related disease had already reached a staggering $70 Billion. The corporations that use asbestos, especially those in the chemical industries, would like to chalk this figure up to widespread fraud, but the fact is these payouts represent the overwhelming number of people who have been injured or killed by asbestos exposure.
One study showed that between 1989 and 2010, asbestos-related diseases robbed American workers of roughly 430,000 years of productive life when they could have been working and contributing to the economy.
6. Asbestos-Related Diseases Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Poorer.
Chemical corporations like Honeywell and Koch Industries try to present themselves as worker-friendly, yet these same companies hid the dangers of asbestos from workers for decades.
While chemical companies — and their shareholders — grow richer from continued asbestos use, it is the workers on the ground who suffer. They wind up footing the medical bills for the diseases they developed as a result of unsafe working conditions.
Between general industry workers and school teachers — 2 professions that are a backbone of American success — nearly 3 million American workers are exposed to asbestos every year. That number does not even include military veterans. On their own, the men and women of the U.S. armed forces make up 33% of all mesothelioma victims in America.
7. Asbestos Is Only Here Because Chemical Corporations Bribed Washington to Get Their Way.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a total ban on asbestos in 1989, but chemical corporations complained that the ban was too financially stressful and managed to get the decision overturned a mere 2 years later in 1991.
Companies like Koch Industries use their fortunes to fund their own political agendas — going so far as to block legislation designed to help asbestos victims receive compensation for their injuries. Other chemical companies like Dow Chemical and Honeywell, spent nearly $70 Million to influence a recent toxic substances reform bill.
In the land of business prosperity, it is often the chemical companies who write the very laws that govern chemical safety. Needless to say, it is individual American citizens who wind up suffering while American businesses prosper.
8. Asbestos-Related Diseases Are Expensive, Incurable, and Mostly Untreatable.
Diseases that are caused by asbestos, such as mesothelioma, have no cure. Palliative treatments, which can improve quality of life and extend a victim’s prognosis, are incredibly expensive.
When it comes to mesothelioma, patients can easily spend over $400,000 for their first year of treatment.
For the thousands of people dying from asbestos diseases every year, there is no alternative. They can simply do their best and wait for the inevitable. But future generations of Americans can avoid that fate if a ban is passed.
9. Mesothelioma Is a Gruesome, Painful, and Unnecessary Way to Die in the 21st Century.
Victims like 39-year-old Kris Penny suffer extreme and life-threatening weight loss as a result of their cancer.
Penny, a once active and strong working man, said that mesothelioma left him so depleted of physical strength and will that he had to “think about every step” he took.
Penny worked in a network of underground tunnels, amidst clouds of asbestos that his employers told him were non-toxic. Now he’s forced to tick off his last days with his daughter, all while in indescribable agony.
Like Penny, many 9/11 first responders have suffered from cancers that developed as a result of their being exposed to toxic substances, including asbestos, during rescue efforts. Because asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center towers, it wound up poisoning the first responders who tried heroically to save the men and women trapped beneath the rubble after the towers fell.
10. Because of Globalization, Asbestos Use in the U.S. Will Also Kill Workers Abroad.
With faster travel and a globalized economy, the world seems smaller now than ever before. Because of this, the toxic waste that includes asbestos travels around the globe easily.
Take battleships, for example. Military ships that were decommissioned from the U.S. Navy — because they contained asbestos — are then sent to India to be broken down and disposed of for cheap.
Unfortunately, part of the reason it’s so cheap to break down ships in India is that the workers aren’t properly protected or watched by their employers. As a result, the U.S.’s attempt to rid itself of asbestos, really just casts the problem onto another, poorer nation.
It’s Past Time for Action.
The death and destruction caused by asbestos have been devastating beyond belief. But our future does not need to be a repeat of our past.
The time has come for all of us to be vocal and to support legislative measures that would seek to ban asbestos in the United States once and for all. Our lives and our futures depend on it.