The sad fact is that asbestos-related diseases kill approximately 10,000 Americans each year. An even sadder fact is that this number is not expected to decrease in the coming years.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has conducted extensive studies on the asbestos crisis, and has found that the U.S. is suffering from an epidemic of asbestos-related disease deaths each year. In fact, asbestos kills many, many more people – thousands more, in fact – than skin cancer, which garners much more publicity. The “signature cancer,” so to speak, of asbestos-related diseases is mesothelioma. This disease was formerly confined to older men who had construction or industrial jobs. However, more women, as well as younger people, are suffering from the cancer. Women and younger people typically develop mesothelioma due to second-hand exposure, such as when workers come home with asbestos dust on their clothes.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos fibers, which are nearly invisible to the human eye, can easily be ingested or inhaled once they are airborne. If someone is exposed through either ingestion or inhalation, he or she will be susceptible to not only mesothelioma, but other asbestos-related diseases such as asbestos lung cancer and asbestosis. It is important to note that when asbestos is not disturbed, it is harmless. But if it is disturbed, due to either a natural disaster, renovation or some other reason, fibers are released and can cause exposure.
Although the dangers of asbestos, such as mesothelioma cancer, have been well-documented, products containing the carcinogen are still being imported into the United States to this day. This, of course, only means that new cases of asbestos-related diseases will continue to be diagnosed in upcoming years. In addition, companies that manufacture asbestos are continually working to lobby for legislation that will make it harder for mesothelioma sufferers to obtain the compensation for their illness.
There have been several efforts to ban asbestos over the years, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came close to banning it in the 1980s before succumbing to pressure from lobbyists representing the asbestos industry. The asbestos crisis, as a result, continues to be a real issue in the United States, thanks to the conflicting interests of the United States government as well as the asbestos companies themselves being unwilling to take responsibility for their product’s risks. This crisis, unfortunately, does not look like it will be ending any time soon.
Not Gone, and Definitely Not Forgotten
Incredibly, the U.S. has still not banned asbestos even though it is has been well-documented that there is no such thing as the “responsible” use of asbestos, and there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure.
The use of asbestos in the United States reached its height in the mid 1970s. As stated earlier, however, its use still continues. More than 3,000 industrial and consumer products contained the carcinogen when asbestos use was at its peak. Not only did manufacturers of asbestos pollute communities, they also harmed workers as well as their families. Used for insulation, soundproofing and fireproofing, asbestos remains in the infrastructure of thousands of buildings in this country.
It is stunning to realize that the asbestos crisis remains in America because this insidious substance is still not banned. While it is encouraging that use has diminished, it still has not been completely eliminated. Brake shoes, roofing and construction products are just a few of the items that still contain asbestos. These and other products continue to put people in danger, either due to direct contact with asbestos or by second-hand exposure. As stated previously, asbestos also continues to be a threat because millions of people continue to be exposed both at home and at their workplaces due to buildings containing the material in their infrastructures.
Asbestos Exposure Dangers
Asbestos exposure has led to one of the most under-publicized, yet highly devastating public health crises of the last few years.