A new rule under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) legally allows manufacturers in the U.S. to make construction-related products using the highly carcinogenic mineral asbestos. The agency’s Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) allows new products containing asbestos to be manufactured on a case-by-case basis.
A new EPA report released in May details the agency’s new framework for evaluating the risk of substances. As a result, the EPA will no longer consider the effects or presence of substances like asbestos in the air, ground or water when it conducts risk assessments.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is both strong and resistant to fire, making it ideal for building materials. It was widely used in insulation and other products until it was banned in most countries in the 1970s. The U.S. is one of few countries did not ban the product, instead opting to significantly restrict its use.
If the microscopic fibers of asbestos become airborne – such as during the manufacturing of products made from asbestos or when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed such as during renovation or demolition projects – they can become inhaled or swallowed. This can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen and other internal organs.
Mesothelioma can lie dormant for decades after asbestos exposure. Once diagnosed, the disease usually proves deadly within 12 to 24 months.
According to the nonprofit Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), nearly 40,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases each year, with lung cancer and mesothelioma being the most common illnesses associated with asbestos exposure.
President Donald Trump has previously shown his skepticism about the health risks associated with asbestos. In his 1997 book The Art of the Comeback, he claimed the anti-asbestos push was the work of “the mob.” In 2012, he tweeted that the World Trade Center might not have burned if the fire-resistant asbestos materials weren’t removed from the towers as a safety precaution.
Source: The Architects Newspaper