Why hasn’t asbestos been banned in the US yet?

Many American citizens still believe that asbestos has been explicitly banned. Unfortunately, they are wrong. Although asbestos is a material no longer mined and much less used than in the past, the American industry continues to import it; not only that, it uses and sells it both in raw version and transformed into finished products.

The fights against asbestos

At the beginning of the 1970s, scientifically learned that asbestos caused cancer (mesothelioma), actions were taken by federal agencies: the first act by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in 1971, which established an emissions standard under the Clean Air Act, which was followed by a more protective professional standard for the world of work.
In subsequent years, the industrial users and the government of Canada (95% asbestos supplier in the United States), fearing that the rules imposed by the EPA would lead to a total ban, pressured President Reagan to stop the EPA efforts. Strengthened by the success of research and public support, EPA continued in the fight against asbestos: in 1989, at the conclusion of a 10-year study, costing an impressive 10 million dollars that generated 100,000 pages of evidence, the EPA’s “Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule” took the hard way, ordering the phasing out and banning of more than 90% of asbestos-containing products.
The industry appealed for the ban to be lifted, highlighting the high costs of disposing of the material and considering the unsafe alternatives to asbestos.
In 1991, the US Court of Appeals rejected most of the EPA’s bans, arguing that there was no evidence that a ban was “the least expensive option” to control public exposure. In conclusion, not only were EPA’s bans on asbestos lifted, but this Fifth Circuit’s decision made it virtually impossible for the EPA to ban any hazardous chemicals.
An attempt was made to ban asbestos in 2002, through a bill (Murray Bill), which was blocked by industry lobbies; in 2007, a bill called Ban Asbestos in America Act unanimously approved the Senate.
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