Asbestos Dangers Still Lurk in the US

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), any building built before 1981 is presumed to contain asbestos. Asbestos is very dangerous because it has the ability to break down into microscopically thin fibers that if breathed in can lodge deep in a person’s lungs. The lodged fibers can cause serious diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis (a scarring of the lung tissue) and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lung cavity). According to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), 15,000 U.S. citizens die each year from asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos has been used as an insulating material for hundreds of years because its fibers are strong, resistant to heat and many chemicals, and don’t conduct electricity. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 regulated the production, importation, use, and disposal of asbestos until June 2016, when President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This bipartisan bill amended and updated the outmoded TSCA to include stricter regulatory standards and replaced TSCA’s cost-benefit safety standard with a new health-based safety standard. This new standard opens the doors for the EPA to officially ban asbestos in the U.S., something it has been trying to do since the first Bush administration.

The most recent Let America Know newsletter delves into the dangers of asbestos and offers the following suggestions on how to minimize your risk to exposure:

At School and Public Buildings

About half of all schools in the United States were built from 1950 to 1969, when asbestos was a common construction material. The EPA requires all schools to inspect any asbestos-containing materials every three years, as well as have an asbestos management plan in place. You can request to see a school’s management plan at any time. In addition, you can keep an eye out for any possible asbestos-containing materials, including:

  • Damaged drywall or plaster
  • Deteriorated tiles, roofing or ceiling panels
  • Chipped paint
  • Old heating or A/C
  • Run-down steam pipes or boiler insulation

At Home:

Most asbestos exposure occurs when homeowners do renovations that disturb asbestos. If you’re planning on tackling any home improvement projects.

  • Some of the in-home items that may contain asbestos are: attic insulation, shingles, tar, drywall, and popcorn ceilings.
  • If you have an older home, don’t perform DIY renovations where asbestos may be present.
  • Never attempt to remove asbestos without help from a professional abatement specialist.
  • Dangerous exposure may occur when you attempt to remove contaminated products, especially if you cut, saw, sand, or drill them.

At Work:

Your employer should be following all OSHA regulations for hazardous chemicals, but be sure to take your own precautions and report any unsafe working conditions.

  • Ask your employer about any asbestos-related health risks in your place of work.
  • Always wear protective gear when you may disturb asbestos.
  • Don’t bring work clothes into the home that may contain asbestos particles.
  • Always dispose of asbestos materials according to state and federal regulations

To learn more about health hazards from asbestos, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/asbestos/homeowner/heffects.html or check out the most recent newsletter from Let America Know at http://letamericaknow.com/view_newsletter_ysk.php?memberid=22515&orderid=872&newsletterid=346&issueid=1609&subscriberid=749173