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Working shouldn't kill you


Occupational diseases can be horrific. The names of some, such as something like Black Lung disease, are frightening enough. One of the most dangerous of all occupational diseases is mesothelioma. It is frightening for two reasons. One, the mineral fibers that cause the disease, can be inhaled decades before manifesting symptoms, meaning you may already be carrying the seeds of the disease.


Second, it is almost always deadly. And with even though its deadly effects have been understood for years, it is still used in numerous applications and, more worryingly, it exists in millions of home, offices, factories and other buildings that were constructed during the last century.


But surely there are laws that protect workers and consumers from this material, aren’t there? Well, sort of. There is the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) which should regulate and, realistically, ban asbestos. It does not, and is currently in the process of being updated. Unfortunately, the update may not do much to improve things.

One critic noted that the bill seems to be more interested in process, and less in actual controlling or limiting toxic chemicals in the workplace or in people's homes. She notes that it would require the EPA to "issue rules, prepare guidance documents, implement procedures."

These types of procedural requirements do little to let a worker know if they are being exposed to a toxic chemical that could eventually kill them. And by creating a complex and cumbersome process, they increase the likelihood that industry can stonewall and delay any regulation for years or decades.

Asbestos is highly dangerous. A single exposure can be deadly. There is no "safe" level of exposure to asbestos fibers, and there is no excuse for legislation not to forever ban its use for all applications within the United States.

Source:, "Asbestos, disease burden, and TSCA reform," Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH, September 25, 2015

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