Editorial
 
 


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed their Significant New Use Rule, which 
would allow asbestos products to be considered for future manufacturing, processing, and 
importing.  With this proposed change, the EPA, which has protection in its very own name, would 
allow asbestos, a known public health menace, to be more widely used by American industries.  
Does this make sense to you?  It surely doesn’t make sense to me. 
	
I hope you don’t know someone who has dealt with mesothelioma, a rare, asbestos-related cancer. 
If you do, however, you know what a tragedy it is.  Coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath are just a few of the harrowing symptoms.  While doctors diagnose approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the United States, the incidence rate has actually declined 9% in recent years, after a peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  In the early 1970s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began placing regulations on asbestos in the workplace, helping to eventually raise enough awareness to drop the occurrence rate of mesothelioma.  This is just one disease, though.  Asbestos-related illnesses, such as lung cancer and uterine cancer, are the cause of an estimated 15,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.
	
Once hailed as a miracle mineral because of its durability, flame-resistance, and flexibility, asbestos is now synonymous with death and disease.  The fact that asbestos was never outright banned, like it has been in more than 60 other countries, has always been a stain in the history of American workplace safety.  Now that it’s going to be hand-held back into use by the Trump administration, it is a particular embarrassment for our country.  
	
For construction workers and building designers who are privy to the microscopic particles of asbestos flying around a jobsite, the EPA’s new rule is particularly hazardous.  In 2016, chemical regulation laws were rewritten by Congress, which led to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gave the EPA the authority to ban dangerous products such as asbestos.  That Act has since been thrown to the wayside as a new administration has been ushered in.  
	
In June, the EPA released its new standards for how it would regulate asbestos, which included ignoring the legacy uses of the mineral.  This means that the EPA is no longer going to evaluate the risk of asbestos in houses, schools, workplaces, and already built infrastructure.  Perhaps even more alarming, this also includes the 25.6 million pounds of asbestos that is disposed of each year into landfills located near people’s homes.  The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has submitted a formal opposition to the new EPA proposal.  The AIA states that the EPA has a job to protect American citizens, which includes workers who would be unjustly harmed by asbestos products, and we agree.  
	
When asbestos started to be widely known as a dangerous mineral several decades ago, many American industries turned away from its usage, aside from the chemical industry that makes chlorine, which still uses it today.  Despite asbestos being cheap, durable, and 100% legal, industries far and wide within the United States have recognized it as the dangerous mineral it is and refuse to use it.  This industry awareness does not, however, take away the responsibility of the EPA to protect workers and American citizens from this toxic substance.  
	
Without getting into the politics behind this move on behalf of the current administration, I will say it’s not looking good for our industry.  Actually, it’s not looking good for many industries.  Pretty much anyone that utilizes any type of built infrastructure, including homes, schools, hospitals, etc., are at risk of being exposed to asbestos as the EPA turns a blind eye.  No one is safe from asbestos, and the one government agency that could have saved us is now throwing us to the wolves.

Marcus Dodson
editor & publisher
Legislation to Die For
How the EPA’s New Asbestos 
Rule Will Affect the Industry