Mesothelioma Injury Lawsuits: The EPA & FDA on Asbestos

Is Asbestos a Known Carcinogen? Asbestos has been used across the globe for centuries due to its insulating and heat-resistant properties. Ancient Egyptians used asbestos for burial shrouds in 2000 BC, but it was not until 1828 that an American patent was first issued for asbestos. In the 1860s, the use of asbestos virtually exploded, exposing large numbers of workers to asbestos dust. In the early 1900s, Dr. Montague Murray noted an uncommonly high mortality rate among workers who were exposed to asbestos. In 1922 the U.S. Navy listed asbestos work as “hazardous,” recommending the use of respirators, and by 1943 Dr. LeRoy Gardner reported that asbestos was “likely” a carcinogen.

In 1964, industrial reps reported that there was no safe level of asbestos dust exposure—twelve years later, asbestos was listed as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health called for a workplace ban on asbestos in the U.S. The EPA was given authority to test and regulate toxic chemicals—including asbestos—in 1976 by Congress. In 2001, the collapse of the World Trade Centers towers released hundreds of tons of asbestos. California called for the cessation of asbestos mining in their state in 2002. Currently, while more than 50 countries have labeled asbestos a carcinogen and banned its use, the United States has not.

People can be exposed to asbestos in their workplace, their homes, or their communities. When products that contain asbestos are disturbed, microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they can be trapped in the lungs, remaining there, and causing inflammation and scarring over time. In turn, this affects breathing and leads to mesothelioma cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testes. Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the EPA, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. There is sufficient evidence that asbestos is responsible for mesothelioma, and, in fact, most mesothelioma cancer diagnoses are the result of exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos exposure can also increase the risk of asbestosis, which is an inflammatory condition affecting the lungs that causes permanent lung damage along with coughing and shortness of breath. Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos, particularly those workers in shipbuilding trades, the mining and milling of asbestos, the manufacturing of asbestos textiles, insulation work in construction and building trades, demolition workers, drywall removers, firefighters, and automobile workers who repair brakes.   

While it is clear that asbestos health risks increase with longer exposure times and heavier exposures, there really is no safe level of asbestos exposure. It can take from 10-40 years for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition like mesothelioma to appear. So, while asbestos is a known carcinogen and is highly regulated in the United States, its use is not banned as it is in 50 other countries. OSHA has issued safety standards for the construction and shipyard industries for the “safe” use of asbestos, but it remains in use across the U.S.

Asbestos, Mesothelioma, and the EPA & FDA The EPA has a long history with asbestos regulation—in 1973 the agency banned fireproofing and insulating spray-on materials containing asbestos, then soon after banned the installation of asbestos-containing pipe and block insulation that contained asbestos. This insulation was commonly used in boilers and hot water tanks. In 1977, the EPA took it a step further, banning the use of asbestos in artificial fireplace embers and wall-patching compounds.

It was not until 1989 that the EPA attempted to ban almost every product that contained asbestos. This was done by using the Toxic Substances Control Act, following a 10-year, $10 million dollar study that generated 100,000 pages of evidence proving that asbestos was carcinogenic. The EPA announced it would phase out and ban more than 90 percent of the products that contained asbestos, yet they were stopped just two years later.

The Reagan White House was pressured by the asbestos industry as well as the government of Canada (at the time the source of 95 percent of the asbestos used in the United States) to stop the EPA’s ban. The industry went to court to overturn the asbestos ban, claiming it was too costly and that the alternatives to asbestos were no safer. Soon, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the EPA’s 1989 ban of asbestos.

This set a dangerous precedent that has made it difficult—if not impossible—for the agency to ban virtually any toxic substance. In 2007, a bill known as Ban Asbestos in America Act passed the Senate unanimously, but the bill had been essentially gutted in committee. Rather than asbestos products, the bill that reached the Senate floor banned only asbestos material. Even so, this watered-down bill could not make it through the House.

While more than 50 nations have banned asbestos as a known carcinogen, the U.S. still allows exposure to this toxic substance. Three decades later, in 2019, the EPA made a “final” rule which prevented any discontinued asbestos products from being reintroduced without a prior EPA evaluation. No new use of asbestos is now allowed without a thorough review of the product by the EPA, and asbestos products banned in 1989 that escaped the overturn of the ban will remain banned.

The FDA has virtually no power to regulate the use of asbestos in cosmetics, which includes such things as baby powder with talc (talc and asbestos are often mined in the same areas, so there can be asbestos fibers in talc) and other beauty products. The FDA is only allowed to regulate OTC medications, prescription medications, and food. The only time the FDA is allowed to weigh in on harmful cosmetics is when the cosmetic contains a contaminant that could make it harmful, or when a cosmetic is improperly labeled or improperly handled.

The agency also has the authority to request a voluntary recall of a dangerous cosmetic product, although it primarily relies on the industry to self-report on a product’s safety. After claims of asbestos in J & J talcum powder, the FDA independently tested 11 different talc-containing cosmetics, resulting in the recall of 33,000 containers of Johnson & Johnson baby powder with talc.

The FDA is set to conduct another talc sampling assignment in 2022, with 50 additional talc-containing cosmetic products with the final results to be released in 2023, but the agency seems fairly reluctant to make a definitive decision regarding the toxicity of asbestos. There is no doubt that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, and that mesothelioma, while treatable, is ultimately deadly.

How an Experienced Mesothelioma Attorney Can Help If you have received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, your first concern should, of course, be your health and your future. Unfortunately, the treatments your doctor may recommend for your diagnosis of mesothelioma can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even those with health insurance may find they have reached the limits of their coverage as a result of their mesothelioma treatments. There are several ways you can collect a settlement from those responsible for your illness.

You should first hire an experienced mesothelioma attorney and file a mesothelioma lawsuit. You may be eligible for a number of mesothelioma trust fund claims set up by large companies like U.S. Gypsum, and Johns-Manville Corporation, along with many others. If you do not fall under any of the categories for a trust fund claim, you can file a mesothelioma lawsuit with the assistance of top mesothelioma lawyers.

You will be able to access mesothelioma law in order to secure a financial settlement from those responsible for placing you at risk even though they knew the hazards of asbestos exposure. If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos, your asbestos lawyers from Sullo & Sullo will assist you in finding the best trust fund for a claim or advise you if a more typical lawsuit is the better option.

There are additional options that your asbestos law firm will be aware of, including veteran’s benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, or SSDI benefits. You could qualify for more than one type of compensation; your asbestos lawyer can clearly lay out your options while helping you determine the best course of action.

There are many more trust funds that could be applicable for you or a loved one who has developed mesothelioma following asbestos exposure. Your asbestos lawyers can assist you in finding the best trust fund for you or advise you if a more typical lawsuit is the better option. Other ways to receive compensation for asbestos-related mesothelioma include: Medicare, Medicaid, SSDI, and VA benefits. Victims may be able to access more than one type of compensation—talk to your mesothelioma lawyer about your options. 

The best mesothelioma law firms are those with considerable experience and knowledge regarding asbestos and mesothelioma. The asbestos lawyers at Sullo & Sullo have the necessary experience to help you file an asbestos lawsuit that will allow you to be compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you need a highly-skilled mesothelioma lawyer, contact Sullo & Sullo today.

DISCLAIMER: Statutes of Limitations limit the amount of time that an individual has to file a lawsuit, and not only vary from state to state, but also vary by cause of action. The information provided above and in the state-specific pages in this section is meant as a general guide, and is for informational purposes only. Each client’s case is unique, and the specific circumstances of any individual case can have significant bearing on the applicable statute of limitations. Any person who believes they may have a viable cause of action is strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney about the statute of limitations for his or her case. Attorney Andrew Sullo is licensed to practice law in Texas, and can prosecute cases that are part of a federal multi-district litigation. Andrew Sullo does not practice law in any other state, and is not certified by the Boards of Legal Specialization in any state. Not all states have board certifications. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of Texas. Our firm is not accepting cases in any state where it would be impermissible for it to do so. Sullo & Sullo, LLP maintains its principal office in Houston, Texas.

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