For patients and families that are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in addition to dealing with this deadly disease there is the lingering question: why did I get mesothelioma? Could it have been prevented? Was I exposed to asbestos? When was I exposed?
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare fatal cancer. For the great majority of patients that are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma the cause can be traced to exposure to asbestos. Asbestos historically has been used in hundreds of products that individuals use. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and for centuries it has been used in products for its insulating properties and fire proofing qualities. The resulting products are varied and found in many industries.
The economic impact of asbestos and its properties is huge. The impact of a cancer diagnosis is devastating. The politics of health vs. wealth is something that victims and their families are thrust into when diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.
The leading supplier for asbestos in the United States has been Brazil. In December of 2017 Brazil banned the mining, use and commercialization of the material. In 2016 the total imported metric tons of asbestos from overseas was 705 metric tons. Of that 705 metric tons, 95% of the imported asbestos came from Brazil. The remaining amount was imported from Russia. With Brazil having banned manufacturing Russia has an opportunity to become the biggest supplier of asbestos to the United States.
The link between exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma was first detected in the late 1940’s. The incubation period is from 20- 50 years. An individual can be exposed to asbestos as a young person and not develop the disease until decades later.
Asbestos is not banned in the United States. Asbestos is still found in brake liners, potting soil, chlorine factories and firefighters clothing. In 1975 the EPA- Environmental Protection Agency – banned asbestos from building materials. In 1989, using the Toxic Substance Control Act, the EPA had a ban on nearly all asbestos products. This ban was appealed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991. In 2016 the Toxic Substances Control Act was amended and required the EPA to evaluate the risks of all existing chemicals used commercially in the United States. Asbestos is one of the first chemicals to undergo evaluations under the new law.
In the news in the past few months it is noted that the Environmental Protection Agency is looking at a risk evaluation of asbestos to “determine whether a chemical substance presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health and environment, without consideration of costs or other non-risk factors, including an unreasonable risk to a potentially exposed or susceptible sub population identified as relevant to the risk evaluation by the Administrator under the conditions of use.”
There are groups that family members of patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have formed to work toward banning asbestos, including the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
If you have witnessed one person suffer with the devastation that a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma brings onto a person and their families’ lives, there would be no question that asbestos should be banned totally for the good of the public. Wealth means nothing without health.