CDC: Decades of Asbestos Regulation Wasn’t Enough to Prevent Thousands of Mesothelioma Deaths

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths caused by malignant mesothelioma, a lethal cancer caused exclusively by asbestos inhalation or ingestion, are on the rise.

Earlier CDC projections predicted the number of mesothelioma deaths to begin decreasing by 2005, but new data exhibited they actually increased by 2,479 in 1999 to 2,579 in 2015. In total, 45,221 deaths were reported during this period.

The CDC’s analysis showed a greater increase in people over 85 years old. These older folks were likely exposed to asbestos before the 1970s, when asbestos was heavily utilized in certain industrial operations. After all, mesothelioma has a low latency period, meaning its symptoms may not appear until even 50 years after first exposure.

The puzzling news regarding the CDC report, is that mesothelioma deaths aren’t decreasing in younger generations. People aged 55 and younger are still dying, even though asbestos was regulated for most, if not all, of these people’s lives. This indicates that asbestos is still around in removal projects, on construction sites and inside of many older homes across the country. Given that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, abatement projects, or other types of “third wave” or “take home” exposures present an extremely dangerous situation for many Americans.

The conclusion, says the CDC, is that the “substantial” occurrence of mesothelioma deaths among younger Americans warrants stronger efforts to prevent exposure. The mystery is why these efforts weren’t made before now.

Enough Is Enough: We Cannot Afford Any More Asbestos-Caused Deaths

Public health organizations have known about asbestos dangers for decades. So did the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products and business owners who knowingly endangered workers’ lives with continued asbestos use.

Exactly 46 years ago this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to impose limits on the use of asbestos. This was because OSHA found that “sufficient medical and scientific evidence has been accumulated to warrant the designation of asbestos as a human carcinogen.”

A few years passed before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) followed suit. While OSHA regulated workplace limits of asbestos exposure, the EPA issued a string of bans against the commercial use of asbestos-containing products.

This began several decades of research into and regulation of the deadly mineral, which had already killed thousands of Americans throughout the 20th century. The goal might have been to reduce the amount of exposure – and thus, the 3,000 annual diagnoses of mesothelioma – linked to asbestos, but new data shows quite a different reality.

Why Isn’t Asbestos Banned in the United States?

Many American citizens are under the impression that asbestos has long been banned in the United States.

In reality? The United States remains only one of a few industrialized nations that has yet to impose a complete ban on asbestos. Accordingly, asbestos continues to be used in manufacturing, as well as being imported, processed and distributed in several different forms.

After the EPA made significant moves to moderate asbestos use in the ’70s and ’80s, these efforts began to level off. In 1991, the EPA’s eventual proposal to ban asbestos through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was overturned by Congress and asbestos industry supporters. In the end, the industry was believed to be more justified in saving profits than lives. Even though 55 other countries have rightfully banned the mineral, asbestos still enters America in hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

Under the recently (and substantially) updated Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), which was signed into law last June by President Obama, the EPA is once again working toward a ban. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) – one the largest independent asbestos victims’ organization – is playing a large role in bringing awareness to the horrors of mesothelioma and to the possibility of a total asbestos ban.

The ADAO is calling on the EPA to ban the use of asbestos completely. You can join the fight and let your own voice be heard, too, by signing this ADAO petition.

The answer to preventing future asbestos-related deaths is as clear as it is right and just: A complete ban of all asbestos in the United States. Until such a ban becomes law, the best we can all do is keep fighting and keep holding the responsible corporations accountable for the hundreds of thousands of deaths they have so mercilessly caused.