As news of asbestos-related diseases spread across the United States, the American public started to become increasingly suspicious of manufacturers who had, for so long, denied the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos companies that had previously learned about the long-term effects of inhaling asbestos fibers began to experience social and legal scrutiny, and asbestos-related claims made against them were overwhelmingly evident.
Mesothelioma in the Millennium
On July 12, 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final ruling to ban most asbestos-containing products. Based on a 10-year study, the ban was placed on the distribution, import, manufacturing and processing of select asbestos-laced products. It also prohibited the introduction of new asbestos-containing products from being sold after August 25, 1989.
However, in 1991, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the EPA’s asbestos ban — a move attributed to pressures from profitable companies in the asbestos industry. Although asbestos-laden merchandise is still sold in American markets, the ban on the sale of new products containing asbestos remains in place.
In 1994, the World Health Organization first began tracking the number of deaths attributed to mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
According to the World Health Organization, a total of 92,253 mesothelioma-related deaths were reported by 83 countries between 1994 and 2008. The National Center for Biotechnology Information currently reports that more than 250,000 people die each year from asbestos-related illnesses on average.
On September 11, 2001, as a direct result of the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, large quantities of asbestos were released into the air. It is believed that asbestos-laced materials were originally used to build the Twin Towers in Manhattan, so when the buildings collapsed, asbestos fibers were inevitably part of the debris distributed into the air.
New York City residents, particularly first responders and sanitation workers, were advised to take proper precautions, such as wearing masks when outdoors and keeping their windows shut when indoors. To help minimize the potential spread of asbestos fibers from employees to other members of their households, they were also encouraged to wash their hands and faces regularly.
Although this type of exposure was technically not considered prolonged, short-term exposure to asbestos dust can also prove harmful to the body. In fact, short-term exposure to either asbestos fibers or solid blocks can cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation.
Worries Around the World
In November 1999, in an effort to protect the health and safety of industrial workers, the United Kingdom government banned the import and usage of asbestos. By January 1, 2005, all 27 members of the European Union had placed a ban on all forms of asbestos.
In 2011, following a 130-year workforce tradition, Canada formally halted operations of its two asbestos mines. The shutdown was enforced in response to the widespread knowledge that asbestos causes certain incurable diseases and cancers.
To date, more than 60 nations from around the globe have banned asbestos usage.
The Case for Cancer
In 1973, Borel v. Fibreboard became the first major asbestos lawsuit to successfully hold an asbestos manufacturer accountable for the harm done to an insulation worker. Over the next 10 years, more than 25,000 other asbestos-related cases were also tried.
By 2002, 730,000 asbestos plaintiffs had successfully sued 8,400 companies for damages. In total, the defendants in these cases were ordered to pay $70 billion in mesothelioma compensation.
A Mesothelioma Milestone: Simmons Hanly Conroy Makes History
The case, Whittington v. U.S. Steel, highlighted the pain and suffering of Roby Whittington, a 70-year-old retired U.S. steel worker in Indiana who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2001.
Turning Point in Turin
In 2012, Stephan Schmidheiny and Jean-Louis de Cartier de Marchienne, who served as key shareholders at fiber cement company Eternit, were held legally responsible for failing to protect their employees and northern Italian communities from asbestos exposure.
After a two-year trial in the city of Turin, the businessmen were ordered to serve 16 years in an Italian prison for the deaths of more than 2,000 asbestos-related deaths in Italy prior to 1992.
According to the verdict, the company’s work on rooftops and pipes caused large quantities of asbestos fibers to be distributed in the air over vast areas of northern Italy. This led to thousands of people developing asbestos-related diseases over time, resulting in death.
Asbestos in America
Despite the global acknowledgment and reactions to the harmful effects of asbestos, the American government still allows for the intentional presence of asbestos. Today, it is still legal to import, sell, and use raw asbestos and products containing asbestos in the United States.
Toxic Work Environment
On April 5, 2022, the EPA proposed a new ruling to ban ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos currently imported into the U.S. The historic move is the inaugural risk management rule introduced under related safety evaluations as part of the 2016 Toxic Substances Control Act.
The EPA has also recently proposed that companies who manufacture asbestos-containing products adhere to proper disposal and recordkeeping requirements based on guidelines provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
Find a Mesothelioma Lawyer Near You
As one of the nation’s leading mesothelioma law firms, Simmons Hanly Conroy has a proven team of experienced attorneys, nurses and staff members who are dedicated to helping families affected by asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease — whether from your job site, usage of cosmetic products or secondhand through a member of your household — you may be entitled to compensation.
It’s time to hold these manufacturing companies responsible for endangering the lives of so many Americans, and our mesothelioma lawyers may be able to fight on your behalf. Contact us today to see how we can help.
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