EPA Finally Completely Bans Asbestos

(RightWing.org) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed a complete ban on asbestos. The mineral has been linked to a wide range of lung diseases and cancers, so it’s easy to understand why its use has now been prohibited in the US. What’s less easy to understand is why it took so long.

Asbestos is a natural type of silicon, which combines the advantages of being a fiber — it’s light and flexible — with the fireproof qualities of rock. Archaeologists have found 4,500-year-old pots reinforced with asbestos mixed into the clay to strengthen it, but it really became popular in the late 19th Century. Asbestos was made into electrical insulators, lightweight fireproof building components, and even ever-lasting wicks for oil lamps. Later it found its way into car brake pads and many other products.

There’s just one problem — if asbestos products get damaged or abraded (like brake pads do) they release tiny fibers of silicon that, when inhaled, can cause lung cancer or several other lethal diseases. This isn’t a recent discovery, either; the first lawsuit for asbestos-related illness was filed in 1927. Many countries started banning the mineral in the 1970s, and by the late 1990s, almost every advanced nation had a ban in place. Currently, 68 countries totally prohibit the use of asbestos.

Up to now, the US has been an outlier, along with developing nations like Mexico, Russia, and Vietnam. The EPA brought in a phased ban in 1989, but asbestos manufacturers filed a lawsuit and had it overturned. Some asbestos products were taken off the market, but many others remained — and thousands of American workers are exposed to it every year. Over 40,000 deaths in the US every year are linked to asbestos. Amazingly, many factories that work with asbestos are exempt from safety inspections.

Now the EPA has finally announced a ban on all asbestos — but it could take years for the deadly substance to finally disappear from the country. Chlorine plants that use asbestos filters to make bleach will have five years to phase them out. The Savannah River nuclear power plant has until 2037 to remove asbestos gaskets from its systems. However, 35 years and thousands of unnecessary deaths after the failed 1989 ban, asbestos is finally on the way out.

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