New federal government data released by the U.S. International Trade Commissions revealed that the U.S. has received nearly 2,000 percent more than its previous asbestos imports between July and August. Analyzed by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the data shows that by the end of August, the U.S. brought in an alarming 272 metric tons of asbestos.
In 2016, Congress passed legislation that altered the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, which gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) every opportunity to ban and restrict harmful substances like asbestos.
But this recent major increase indicates that neither President Trump nor the EPA have any plans to limit its import and use.
What’s the big deal about asbestos?
Asbestos fibers are small and nearly impossible to detect. You won’t be able to see them, smell them, or taste them, so you won’t know if you’ve inhaled or ingested them.
Once asbestos fibers enter your body, they stay there, as the body has a hard time getting rid of them. Over time, asbestos in the body can cause inflammation, scarring, and damage to DNA cells that lead to cancer and other harmful diseases.
There is no amount of asbestos that’s considered safe, but its the most dangerous when someone is exposed to a large concentration of it or on a regular basis over a long period of time.
The scariest thing about asbestos is that there’s no way to reverse the cell damage that it causes.
Federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that diseases stemming from asbestos are responsible for taking approximately 15,000 American lives each year. But a recent study revealed that the death toll might actually be significantly higher, reaching 40,000 Americans per year.
So why is the U.S. seeing an increase in this harmful substance?
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the only industry that still uses asbestos in the U.S. is the chlor-alkali industry, which uses it in the production of chlorine and sodium chloride. Since there are no longer any asbestos mines in the U.S., the industry has to rely on imports.
Lobbyists from the American Chemistry Council who work for the chlor-alkali industry have been putting pressure on the Trump administration to exempt asbestos from the new TSCA. This would allow the toxic chemical to be imported and used just as much, if not more, than it is now.
Sadly, it seems that the lobbyists are succeeding. According to the Fall 2018 deregulatory agenda released by the White House, the EPA is not planning to ban asbestos.
In fact, it seems that Trump is doing all he can to bolster the chemical’s import. Earlier this year, the EWG revealed that Russia’a largest asbestos producer is packaging its product with President Trump’s image.
A Facebook post released by the company read:
Donald is on our side! … He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos “100% safe after application.”
But try telling that to the countless Americans who have lost their lives due to asbestos exposure. The chemical deemed “100% safe” by the U.S. president has been banned in more than 60 nations around the world. The U.S. remains one of the only countries not only to still use asbestos, but to actually increase its import.
Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, urged the EPA to reconsider their passive stance. “Americans cannot identify or manage the risks of asbestos,” she said. “The time is now for the EPA to say no to the asbestos industry and finally ban asbestos without exemptions.”