How many commercials have you seen on late night TV from lawyers seeking victims of mesothelioma to help them sue to get restitution for their debilitating disease?
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Probably more than you’d care to admit, but if you hadn’t turned the sound off during the ad breaks you may have learned that the condition is one of the many diseases attributed to exposure to asbestos fibers, the material used for years as an insulating material to fireproof buildings before its use was banned in most parts of the developed world.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the use of asbestos has not been completely barred in the United States, unlike in the EU, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, and other countries. A court prevented the then-benevolent EPA from forbidding the use of the material because at the time the estimated cost of the ban would have been between $450 to $800 million, while the estimated death toll over a little more than a dozen years would have been only about 200 people.
Now, thanks to the opinion of noted “very stable genius” President Donald Trump, who believes that asbestos is “100% safe, once applied,” the Environmental Protection Agency will no longer consider the health risks and impacts of asbestos already in the environment when evaluating the dangers associated with the chemical compound, according to a report in Newsweek.
With symptoms of asbestos exposure often taking up to 20-50 years to develop, diseases linked to the substance still cause between 12,000 and 15,000 deaths every year in the U.S. despite the significant reduction in the use of asbestos since the 1980’s when its dangers were discovered.
Yet rather than try to protect the American people from exposure to this toxic product, President Trump is basing the latest EPA policy change on another one of his lunatic conspiracy theories, one he originally explained in his book “The Art of The Comeback.”
“I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented,” he wrote, as only someone intimately acquainted with organized crime could.
The decision by the EPA is a response to revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which mandates that the EPA review the safety of certain chemicals, require testing and public notice of safety info for said chemicals and allow the EPA to ban certain uses of asbestos that they previously did not have the authority to prohibit.
The Trump inspired decision to apply regulations to only new uses of asbestos and refuse to evaluate the health risks of asbestos already in the environment was not received well by health care advocates.
“The end result will be a seriously inadequate risk evaluation that fails to address major contributors to the heavy and growing toll of asbestos mortality and disease in the United States,” said the president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, Linda Reinstein, in a statement.
“If you don’t evaluate the dangerous legacy of asbestos you don’t know how much contamination still exists in the United States,” Reinstein told Newsweek. “We know it’s in our homes, schools, workplace and environment but the average American can’t identify and evaluate the risk. We have taken risk evaluation off the table.”
In evaluating the potential reasons (outside of the mafia linkage proffered by Trump) for the EPA decision, it may help to know that prior to becoming deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, who met with Reinstein and other anti-asbestos lobbyists to discuss the issue, was previously a senior director at the American Chemistry Council, a lobbyist group that represents Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto and ExxonMobil Chemical.
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, sees the move as a betrayal of congressional intent.
“In a bipartisan compromise, Congress moved to patch up the holes in our chemical review system when it updated the Toxic Substances Control Act. But Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration are presiding over an attack on not just the spirit, but also the actual content of the reform law,” the Senator said.
“Thousands of people die from asbestos-related cancers every year. Asbestos and other toxic substances will continue to contaminate our environment because Trump administration policies are contaminating the EPA.”
Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee added:
“EPA’s refusal to address longstanding concerns around the use and disposal of asbestos is further proof that Administrator Pruitt will bend over backwards to help industry, but won’t lift a finger to protect public health.”
With policies like these, one can be certain that the only thing being protected by the EPA under the Trump administration is the profits of its corporate donors.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.