Limits on asbestos investigation may increase mass torts

For decades, advocates for health and safety have worked to gain the agreement of the federal government to enact legislation to protect many employees and the general public from toxins like asbestos. The steady stream of mass torts against companies using asbestos has brought its dangers to the public's attention. The U.S. Congress has been debating the testing of millions of tons of the toxic substance, and many hoped the review would result in a national ban of asbestos. However, President Donald Trump recently announced a limit to the scope of that investigation.

Instead of examining some 8.9 million tons of products containing asbestos that are currently in use in Tennessee and across the country, the government will review only those products that are currently entering the marketplace or still being manufactured. This means those dangerous and toxic materials in people's homes, schools and workplaces may not be included in the study, and some feel this undermines the goal of the research, which is to move toward regulating the use of asbestos. Some firefighters and construction workers, who regularly come in contact with asbestos, feel especially betrayed by the new ruling.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance that has been used in construction since the 1970s because of its flame-resistance quality. When fibers from asbestos become airborne, they may be inhaled or ingested, which has been associated with many incurable illnesses, such as mesothelioma. Despite efforts to ban asbestos since 1989, the chemical industry is allegedly placing pressure on lawmakers, thwarting those efforts.

While some who benefit from the uses of asbestos fight the potential regulations that may result from a thorough examination of products with asbestos, many workers are enduring a different kind of examination. A medical exam that ends with a diagnosis of mesothelioma may mean years of treatment and suffering, not to mention financial burdens. Those in Tennessee who face this dilemma often turn to an attorney who can explain the options of joining mass torts which strive to win compensation for many victims.

Source: Time, "The EPA's Chemical Review Would Exclude Millions of Tons of Toxins", Matthew Brown, Oct. 25. 2017

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