Editor’s note: This article is timely as the asbestos abatement portion of the Milton High School pool project will take place from March 22 (after 3 p.m.) to March 31 (spring break).
While it's true that asbestos was far more rampant throughout the early 19th century, the fact of the matter is that this natural mineral is killing well over 12,000 people a year in the United States alone. Aware of the repercussions on community health, the EPA allows companies to use up to 1% of this carcinogen in products today, predominantly within the manufacturing, building and construction industries.
It can be easy to disregard this hazard because it's hard to believe that such a small amount of asbestos could result in such severe consequences. However, a number of studies have shown that repeated exposure can result in lifelong and life-threatening illnesses years down the line. We hope to educate readers on the facts, the myths, and the realities behind asbestos and what is being done to implement a ban nationwide.
How Asbestos Came to Be
With regard to efficiency, asbestos is one of the only minerals that can resist heat, chemicals, and electricity, thus sustaining itself under a number of harsh conditions. This toxin was applauded for making consumer products safe and reliable, until it was discovered to cause chronic lung conditions like pleural effusions and pleural thickening, both suggested to be precursors of the deadly disease known as malignant mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, the adverse health effects weren't discovered for , enabling professionals to not only work with, but also install asbestos-containing products inside thousands of homes and buildings across the country. All the while, an increasing amount of specialized workers came forward with asbestos-related conditions, confirmed to be a result of occupational exposure and evidence to support the toxicity behind long-term exposure.
Construction and Renovation
Many live among asbestos without even realizing it, but you can rest assured that the fiber is not an immediate threat to your health. This mineral has to be damaged, disturbed, or worn down in order for fibers to loosen and become airborne, and only then can these fibers be effortlessly inhaled by those nearby. This is problematic not only for professionals, but also DIYers, as they could unknowingly disturb asbestos by doing simple home improvement tasks like sanding drywall or ripping out insulation.
Unfortunately, this rule of thumb extends to a wide range of building materials, including siding, caulking, textured coatings, floor and ceiling tiles, roof shingles, and many more. Aside from renovations, these contaminated materials will also deteriorate over time, as homes and products naturally weather and age. Residents need not panic, but rather understand that if their homes shows visible signs of deterioration, they should put their DIY project on hold and seek a professional opinion followed by proper remediation, if necessary.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides strict guidelines as to how to protect yourself and others from this toxin if you encounter it, and urges anyone with concern to contact a professional inspector or abatement specialist as soon as possible.
A Loophole in the EPA
Environmental activists, health advocates, and victims of asbestos exposure have come together nationwide to take a stand against the continued use of this cancer-causing agent, however, there is still quite a long way to go.
Just this past summer, the EPA introduced the "Significant New Use Rule" (SNUR), which received backlash across the country. This rule requires manufacturers to gain approval from the EPA in order to start or continue importing, manufacturing or processing of asbestos. Many have expressed concern because the rule does not ban its use, but rather addresses 15 specific circumstances the EPA deems practical and may grant approval for use on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, President Trump has publicly addressed the topic stating he believes the expressed dangers of asbestos are no more than a ploy ran by the mob and that it is, in fact, safe. However, this opinion can be refuted after an email from a member of the EPA's staff, attorney advisor Mark Seltzer, was leaked online stating, "This new approach allows asbestos-containing products that are not currently used to be used in the future."
Many countries across the globe have banned asbestos completely, but the United States continues to regulate the toxin rather than eradicate it altogether. The Trump administration has begun removing asbestos-related news and resources online, which has prompted the public to take matters into their own hands. At this point, it's important to raise awareness regarding preventing the public from unnecessary exposure in the future.