Even though the government and the public know about the connection between toxic asbestos and asbestos-related illnesses and mesothelioma, the mineral still is not currently banned in the United States. There have been numerous occasions when U.S. policymakers have pushed for harsher asbestos legislation, yet those heroic attempts have failed as of today.
The U.S. only has safety policies in place even though mesothelioma cases are steadily on the rise. Also lacking and extremely limited are policies that would provide financial and medical assistance to those affected by toxic exposure to asbestos. Many asbestos victims also suffer from soaring medical bills, loss of wages, and a short life expectancy. The U.S. has no federal law to address these overwhelming concerns or claims. Our country certainly lacks programs for people who have become sick as a direct result of exposure to toxic asbestos. The task of dealing with the aftermath of hazardous asbestos exposure has been given to the states to figure out on their own. Therefore, there is not a uniform, comprehensive federal mandate or approach to make this task more convenient for those who need help the most.
Federal Agencies and Asbestos Legislation
The two main federal agencies that deal with asbestos exposure are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Both of these agencies work closely with workers, especially those in the construction industry where asbestos exposure is extremely high. These agencies have been vitally important to the development of asbestos legislation over the years, and they continue to advocate for affected workers
Asbestos Legislation Timeline
1970-Clean Air Act
This was the first federal law acknowledging asbestos as toxic and hazardous to the health of anyone exposed to it. Over time, this legislation has been amended to specifically identify asbestos as a pollutant and to help deal with its use and disposal.
1976-Toxic Substances Control Act
This powerful legislation gave the EPA the authority to strictly regulate asbestos and other toxic materials and substances that posed a serious health risk to the public. During this time frame, many policymakers began pushing for a ban on asbestos.
1986-Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
Strict regulations were ordered in 1986 to provide for adequate inspections of all private and public schools in the United States. Standards for asbestos maintenance and removal, and plans for containing asbestos in schools became law.
1994-Bankruptcy Reform Act
In 1994, the Bankruptcy Code was amended as to protect companies that were being sued for asbestos claims. This allowed asbestos companies to protect some of their assets against present and future claims.
2006-Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (the “Fair Act”)
Compensation for those affected by toxic asbestos exposure was the central issue of this legislation called the “Fair Act”, which has never become law.
2007-Ban Asbestos Act
Beginning in 2007 and continuing over the next decade, this Act sought an all-out ban on asbestos in the United States. This has never become a federal law.