Although asbestos has been banned from being used in certain products, such as flooring felt and commercial paper, there are no blanket federal or state-level bans on asbestos in place. However, several laws have been enacted which are meant to regulate how companies and other organizations handle asbestos, and to protect those who may come into contact with it.
A wide range of asbestos-related laws have been put into place, effecting everything from the quality of our air to the safety of the buildings we live and work in.
Asbestos Information Act
This law, enacted in 1988, requires manufacturers using asbestos in their products to report this information to the Environmental Protection Agency so that it can be available to the public.
Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
AHERA required that the Environmental Protection Agency develop rules which would require educational institutions to inspect their buildings for materials containing asbestos. Additionally, these rules would require schools to develop plans to reduce or eliminate asbestos hazards. As part of AHERA, the EPA was tasked with developing a model plan that states would be able to use to license and accredit those inspecting schools for asbestos-related materials, as well as implementing asbestos management and removal plans.
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act lays out the Environmental Protection Agency’s responsibilities as they relate to improving the country’s air quality. It also allows the agency to set national emission standards for harmful pollutants, such as asbestos.
James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act
The James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act was created in order to provide compensation for the first responders of the 9/11 attacks who developed health problems as a result of their service. The original Act was signed into law in 2011. When it was reauthorized in 2016, it provided additional funding for both the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. These programs help provide treatment for over 50 different types of cancer, including mesothelioma.
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
As the name suggests, the Safe Drinking Water Act allows the government to protect the quality of the country’s drinking water. The SDWA allows the EPA to set drinking water quality standards, and to oversee those who implement those standards.
Toxic Substances Control Act
The TSCA was designed to regulate the ways in which chemicals are developed, used, and disposed of. The TSCA has been criticized for not providing regulatory agencies with the authority needed to enforce its mandate, and various reforms are currently working their way through Congress.
State Asbestos Laws
It may not surprise you to learn that some laws regulating asbestos use can vary from state to state. Some of these laws are enforced by the states’ individual environmental protection agencies. States have also created agencies which exclusively handle asbestos-related matters. Your asbestos lawyer will have a clear understanding of these laws and how they can affect and potentially benefit your case.
While it’s up to the president and Congress to pass laws which regulate the use of asbestos, various government agencies have been granted control over how those laws are carried out.
Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA’s mission is “to protect human health and the environment.” It does this in part by developing regulations which help in enforcing federal law, in consultation with state and local government. Rules enacted by the EPA have increased public awareness about products containing asbestos, and have assisted in the removal of asbestos from public and private buildings.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
As part of the Department of Labor, OSHA oversees the safety and health of workers across the country by setting standards employers must abide by in order to keep their work environments safe. OSHA has set higher training standards for those who work with asbestos, and for the ways in which asbestos is disposed of.
Mine Safety and Health Administration
MSHA works to prevent illnesses, fatal accidents, and reduce the number of nonfatal accidents by improving the overall safety and health conditions of American mines. As asbestos is a naturally occurring substance, miners are especially susceptible to exposure.
Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSC oversees products that pose the risk of injury or death to consumers. The commission has imposed bans on several products containing asbestos.