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What Laws Protect Individuals and Consumers from Asbestos Exposure?

EPA and OSHA are the main federal agencies with effective laws and regulations aimed at protecting various groups of individuals from asbestos exposure, be it occupational or environmental.

answered by Wendy Garmon

Although asbestos use is strictly regulated nowadays, there are still sources of exposure which can become health hazards

The USA is one of the countries which have not banned asbestos completely. While the use of this carcinogenic mineral has decreased considerably within the past five decades, large amounts of asbestos are still regularly employed by several industries. According to the Mineral Resource Program, approximately 360 tons of asbestos were consumed in 2015, over 90% of which by the chloralkali industry. Since the early 1970s, when asbestos was classified as a known human carcinogen, multiple government agencies have been striving to protect citizens from occupational or environmental exposure, as well as to regulate the consumption of asbestos throughout the U.S.

At the moment, there are a series of effective laws and regulations pertaining to asbestos exposure within certain groups of individuals, from consumers and residents to workers who encounter it on a daily basis on the job. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are three of the federal agencies which have enforced laws and regulations to protect people from asbestos exposure.

EPA asbestos laws and regulations

This law refers to school buildings with asbestos-containing materials in their structure which are currently in use. Local educational agencies are required to inspect school buildings for asbestos products, prepare and implement asbestos management plans, and perform asbestos response actions to prevent or minimize asbestos exposure. According to AHERA, parents, teachers, staff, as well as any other employees, must be notified about the presence of asbestos in the building. It applies to all educational agencies (public schools, private schools, schools affiliated with religious institutions etc.).

ASHARA pertains to the previous law, extending funding for the asbestos abatement loan and grant program for schools and requiring EPA to increase the duration of training for asbestos abatement workers under the Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan (MAP). It also directed EPA to expand the accreditation criteria to cover asbestos removal operations in all public and commercial buildings in addition to schools.

The Clean Air Act includes provisions for EPA to protect and improve the country’s air quality and to set national emission standards for air pollutants, including for airborne asbestos.

This federal law concerns the quality and safety of drinking water, ensuring that the concentration of asbestos – as well as of 90 other hazardous contaminants – remains below the permissible limit, which is 1 MFL (million fibers per liter). As asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, it is nearly inevitable that it will infiltrate the water system in certain states. However, exposure to low doses of asbestos fibers is not likely to cause health issues. When the asbestos level in drinking water exceeds the limit, water suppliers must notify citizens within 30 days.

Also known as Superfund, CERCLA addresses abandoned hazardous waste sites. To prevent environmental exposure to asbestos, which is very likely to occur in the case of residents who live in close proximity to such areas, the purpose of this law is to identify and promptly attend to sites where hazardous waste has been dumped following various activities. The problematic areas are called Superfund Sites and are included in EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL). After the responsible party is notified regarding the hazard, they can either willingly start the clean-up operations or EPA will compel them to. Nevertheless, if the liable party is unable to perform the clean-up or refuses to comply, EPA will take charge and initiate the clean-up project itself.

By virtue of Section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA was able to extend worker protection requirements. As a result, these requirements now include state and local government employees who are handling asbestos products on the job and were not previously covered by OSHA’s asbestos regulations.

This set of regulations concerns the safety of workers who perform renovation, demolition, construction or installation operations involving asbestos-containing materials. According to NESHAP, the owner of the building must notify the appropriate state agency before the operation begins if any amount of asbestos might be disturbed during it. These regulations also refer to manufacturing and fabricating operations involving asbestos.

OSHA asbestos regulations

Asbestos General Standard

It specifies the permissible limit for asbestos exposure, which is 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air, and provides in-depth information on worker training, respiratory protection, labeling, engineering controls, as well as the appropriate disposal of asbestos waste.

Asbestos Construction Standard

These regulations cover the essential aspects of construction work which involves the use of asbestos, from safe work practices to asbestos waste disposal.

CPSC asbestos bans and regulations

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible with identifying products which may pose a threat to the health or safety of consumers and regulating or banning them accordingly. In regard to asbestos, CPSC has issued regulations and bans concerning three types of asbestos-containing products:

  • patching compounds
  • emberizing materials
  • asbestos-containing garments for general use

Can I still file a claim if I do not know the exact circumstances of my asbestos exposure?

Occupational asbestos exposure can be supported by existent medical documents and employment records, as well as by eyewitnesses. However, the proof asbestos victims have upon seeking compensation is often insufficient to submit along with their asbestos claim. A lawyer whose primary area of practice is asbestos litigation will be of invaluable help in this regard, as their legal team can successfully gather additional information, which will ultimately ensure the most satisfying result.

Furthermore, a law firm specialized in asbestos cases will provide you with multiple resources which can help you remember how you were exposed to asbestos in the workplace. You will be asked to browse product identification books, which contain pictures of asbestos products you might have come in contact with. As the databases they have access to are extremely vast, the legal experts who will be assisting you can also discover other relevant information pertaining to your work history. They can identify and locate some of your former co-workers or old friends, who might be able to provide essential details as well.

If you choose a highly experienced attorney to help you file a claim with asbestos trust funds, you can rest assured that their legal team will thoroughly research and double-check every important piece of information you have and collect additional evidence to make sure you will recover the maximum amount of compensation you qualify for. The lawyers at Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. have been handling asbestos claims since 1990 and if you, too, are a victim of occupational asbestos exposure, we encourage you to contact us at 205.328.9200 as soon as possible. Due to the statute of limitations, asbestos victims can submit a claim only within 1 to 3 years from the date of diagnosis, depending on their state of residence.

*The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

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