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Asbestos Is Still A Problem

Asbestos Is Still A Problem

Last month, the Biden administration added a new office that works across divisions and includes 200 new employees. The list of substances allowed in the US that are banned or regulated in the EU is long, and the first one this office has taken action on may surprise you. If you assumed asbestos was banned like I did, the EPA has proven us wrong. While it is banned in the EU, USA factories and manufacturing plants are still operating with no ban on asbestos.

This may bring to mind one of the bigger class action lawsuits in recent years. The Johnson & Johnson iconic baby powder is no longer on shelves because it contained asbestos. J&J paid a settlement and quietly pulled the product from shelves. Asbestos isn’t the only super toxic substance ending up in products, last year several sunscreens were recalled when benzene (a gasoline compound) was found by independent testers. Each time the idea of an asbestos ban is introduced, it's lobbied by manufacturers into extinction. This is the first time the EPA has considered a ban in 30 years. The only current regulation has been the STAR Program, which is supposed to inspect facilities on behalf of OSHA (worker’s comp). Some have accused the STAR Program as being nothing more than “a ruse”. At best it’s been completely ineffective.

The idea behind the STAR Program was to motivate facilities to take the initiative to be spotless in order to avoid inspections. In practice, the STAR Program meant fewer inspections and giving facilities several months’ notice before an inspection so that they could clean up. According to newsletter Below the Fold, “former workers reported regularly seeing thick coatings of released asbestos on uniforms, ceilings, walls, and uniforms. And if inspectors did find problems, they didn’t issue citations.” This new office will be the first attempt to put a ban on asbestos in thirty years. If anything does change it will take months to make this ban a reality.

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