The risks of asbestos exposure only started to become understood during the early 1970s. Prior to that, asbestos was widely used in a variety of industries and professions where millions of people were exposed. In the time since, the federal government has regulated how asbestos can be used. It is one of the first hazardous pollutants to ever be controlled under the Clean Air Act in 1970. In 1976, several forms of asbestos were outright banned through the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure
The most common symptoms of asbestos exposure include chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, anemia, chronic cough, and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, the symptoms of asbestos exposure are somewhat unpredictable because of the numerous severe conditions that it can lead to. The most severe of these conditions include asbestosis, pneumothorax, pleural effusions, and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is the most dangerous because it is a rare and aggressive cancer that currently cannot be cured.
Generally speaking, the life expectancy for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma is poor because symptoms rarely manifest until the cancer has had a chance to develop. In one study of 167 mesothelioma patients, the typical life expectancy for patients around the age of 50 was approximately one year, 240 days for those diagnosed over the age of 65, or 112 days for those diagnosed at 75 or older.
It may come as a surprise to learn that many forms of asbestos remain legal in the United States. Unlike many nations around the world, the federal government has decided against issuing a general ban on asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started the Phase Out Rule in 1989, watch allows a variety of consumer products to contain trace amounts of asbestos. For the most part, these are products which do not easily allow asbestos to become airborne, which should prevent asbestos from becoming inhaled. This is because asbestos-related conditions are usually the result of asbestos becoming trapped in the lungs.
The Federal Position
The position of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the EPA is clear: there is no safe exposure limit when it comes to preventing asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. Those with as little as one month of contact with asbestos have been known to develop mesothelioma later in their lives.
According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care medicine, asbestos remains a safety hazard for approximately 1.3 million Americans who work either in construction or building maintenance. These are the industries where asbestos products are still commonly used in a variety of construction materials. These include asbestos roof coatings, gaskets, floor tiles, pipes, and more.
The EPA attempted to issue a general ban on asbestos in 1991. That ban was blocked by the 5th Circuit Court because the estimated costs were expected to be $450-$800 million, while saving as few as 200 lives over the course of a decade. Although a general ban has not been issued to this very day, legislation against asbestos has continued to develop in the time since. One recent example includes Washington State, which issued a ban against the use of asbestos in auto brakes that took effect this year.
This article was contributed on behalf of Shrader & Associates, L.L.P, a specialized asbestos law firm. Check out their website today and see how they can help you!