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If Asbestos Is a Health Hazard, Is It Banned in the US?

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Even though it is a known human carcinogen, asbestos is not completely banned in the U.S. at the moment. However, it is regulated by EPA under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act.

answered by Mark L. Rowe

Most asbestos-containing products can still be legally manufactured, imported and distributed in the U.S.

Nowadays, the devastating effects of asbestos exposure are well-known. As a result, 55 countries have entirely outlawed it within the past decades. However, the U.S. is not among them, as asbestos is not entirely banned in the country. While the mining of asbestos is no longer practiced, the manufacturing of most products which have historically contained asbestos, such as vinyl floor tiles, roofing felt or gaskets, is still allowed.

There have been numerous attempts to ban asbestos in the U.S. since 1973, when the mineral was finally recognized as a known human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. The most recent rule aimed at completely outlawing asbestos was issued by the previously mentioned agency in 1989. According to Section 6 of Toxic Substances Control Act, the use, manufacturing, import, distribution and processing of most asbestos-containing products would be banned in the U.S. Nevertheless, EPA's rule was overturned in 1991 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Some of the asbestos products which are not currently banned in the U.S. are:

  • millboard
  • vinyl floor tiles
  • cement pipes
  • friction materials
  • pipeline wrap
  • drum brake linings
  • gaskets
  • clothing
  • cement corrugated sheet
  • roofing felt
  • cement shingles

Nonetheless, the manufacturing and use of asbestos-containing products has decreased considerably since the 1980s. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, approximately 560,000 metric tons of asbestos were produced and consumed in 1979, while in 1989 there were only 55,000. The widespread public concern and the regulatory actions have undoubtedly contributed to this dramatic decline.

Flooring felt, commercial paper, wall patching compounds, rollboard and corrugated paper are among the asbestos products which are banned in the U.S. As for applications, the following are forbidden by the Clean Air Act, as well as any new uses of asbestos:

  • spray-on application of products which contain more than 1% asbestos to buildings, structures, pipes and conduit
  • the use of asbestos pipe insulation and asbestos block insulation on facility components

Although the prevalence of asbestos is significantly lower than several decades ago, the issue of occupational exposure remains. According to OSHA, 1.3 million workers are currently exposed to asbestos on the job, most of them in the construction industry.

If you were exposed to asbestos in the workplace and developed mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer, you are eligible for financial compensation. Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. has been providing asbestos victims with quality legal representation since 1990. So far, our lawyers have recovered over $1.4 billion for their clients. Please feel free to contact us at (205) 328-9200 and we will help you as well.

We also Represent U.S. Veterans Exposed to Asbestos while Serving their Country

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