Top Asbestos Stories from 2016

Asbestos // December 29, 2016

Earlier this week, we shared some of the most significant medical advances related to mesothelioma over the past year. In conjunction with those advances, we also wanted to share some of the biggest asbestos-related stories, recognizing that this toxic substance is still a major hazard for everyone, and the risk of exposure is high.

With that in mind, here are some of the top asbestos stories from 2016.

Donald Trump’s View on Asbestos

There’s no doubt that the 2016 presidential campaign and election has been a weird time for American history and politics. One footnote to that weirdness was the revelation in June of then-Candidate Trump’s views on asbestos: namely, that the health issues it causes is nothing more than a “mob conspiracy.”

This information was posted by Mother Jones, an environmentally focused publication that did a series of short exposés on some of the more bizarre aspects of Trump’s beliefs and activities. They found the statements about asbestos in a book Trump published nearly 20 years ago, The Art of the Comeback, in which he stated that “the moment against asbestos was led by the mob,” citing a fictitious monopoly by mob-related companies in the asbestos-removal industry.

Trump went on to make further claims about asbestos, calling it “100% safe” if it is applied correctly. However, the medical and scientific evidence is clear: NO level of asbestos exposure is safe, meaning that no application of asbestos is safe either.

Hoboken Train Crash and Asbestos

One of the most-covered domestic disasters of the year was the crash of a commuter train in Hoboken, New Jersey, in September. The crash caused over 110 injuries and killed at least one person, as well as destroyed a large part of the Hoboken Terminal.

During the rescue and cleanup, attempts by the National Transportation Safety Board were made to recover the train’s “black box,” a device that contains important information with measurements and data from systems on the train moments before the crash. However, due to the structural damage that the train caused at the Hoboken Terminal, huge amounts of asbestos were exposed, making it impossible for investigators to safely reach the device. Only after the asbestos and other debris was cleaned up days later were investigators allowed back on the scene to retrieve the black box.

Canada’s Plan to Ban Asbestos

Just this month, our neighbor to the north announced some of the details around the country’s plan to ban asbestos. As one of the biggest countries in the world still involved in the asbestos mining and commerce – there’s even a town called Asbestos in Quebec, due to all of the asbestos mining that took place there – this is major news, not to mention a big blow to the asbestos industry.

To effect the ban, Canada will enact a number of new rules and regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) that will reduce workplace exposure to asbestos. In addition, the country’s building codes will be updated to prevent the use of asbestos in any new construction or renovations. Importing products containing asbestos will also be banned.

While the full ban isn’t expected to take place until 2018, having some solid details around how it will be implemented is great news. It could also serve as a model for a future ban in the U.S.

Lautenberg Act Gives EPA New Powers for Potential Ban

Speaking of banning asbestos in the U.S., a major step was taken over the summer when President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act into law. This act, passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, updated the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by giving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new powers to review and implement regulations against dangerous chemicals.

Over the next several months, the EPA took the steps necessary to determine which chemicals it was going to review first, which included a series of public meetings and other investigatory actions. Then, earlier this month, the agency announced that it had come up with a list of 10 substances it would review first under these new powers. Asbestos was on that list.

Although this review will not necessarily lead to a full ban on asbestos, many advocates for a ban are encouraged by these developments. The first report is due from the EPA in about six months, after which decisions will be made about any future regulations that may affect asbestos (and the other chemicals the agency is reviewing).

Moving Forward in 2017

Asbestos is still a major concern in the U.S. and around the world. In 2017, the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center will continue to bring you stories about the damage that asbestos does, the progress we are making on getting it banned, and ways that you can help keep yourself and your loved ones from being exposed to this deadly substance.