Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule, which would allow the EPA to approve new uses for asbestos, if those applications pass a risk-assessment test. While asbestos has never been completely banned from use in the United States, numerous regulations have been enacted since the 1970s banning some uses and restricting others. While there may be some asbestos products on the market today, there are very few and it is unlikely that you or a loved one will experience any harmful exposure to a new asbestos product.
The EPA’s proposed rule would drastically change the current risk for asbestos exposure in Kentucky and the rest of the United States. It would potentially allow asbestos to be used in the following products:
· Pipeline wrap
· Reinforced plastics
· High-grade electrical paper
· Adhesives, sealants, and roof and non-roof coatings
· Arc chutes
· Beater-add gaskets
· Extruded sealant tape and other tape
· Filler for acetylene cylinders
· Missile liners
· Roofing felt
· Separators in fuel cells and batteries
· Vinyl-asbestos floor tile
· And any other building material (other than cement).
Satterley & Kelley opposes this proposed rule because it is not good for the health and welfare of Kentucky workers or their families. Asbestos has been one of the most significant workplace hazards this Country has faced. Hundreds of thousands of people have been diagnosed with asbestos related diseases, claiming tens of thousands of lives. Unfortunately, workers have not been the only group impacted by occupational uses of asbestos. Family members of exposed workers have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases from exposure to their spouses’ or parents’ asbestos contaminated clothing.
Proponents argue that the new rule will ensure that asbestos products will not reach the market unless evaluated by the EPA. However, many doctors, health experts, and even some EPA personnel disagree, indicating that the rule will lead people to experience asbestos exposures they would not have otherwise had if the EPA did not open the door to new asbestos uses.
Hopefully, the EPA will ultimately refrain from enacting this regulation. However, if does enact the new rule, you should carefully review product labels to ensure that asbestos is not a component. While the new EPA rule may appear to be limited to the products referenced above, that may not always be the case. Manufacturers have a duty to warn about dangerous propensities of their products. Unfortunately, it may be many years in the future before an asbestos disease manifests. It is important to know the hazards now, take precautions to protect yourself and know your rights should an injury occur.