Disputes over the use of asbestos do not subsidize – so far there is no consensus on this issue. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency is protecting the material.

The Environment Protection Agency of the USA (EPA) has appeared in front line of struggle for the future of the market of asbestos-containing materials, having published preliminary results of research of 33 standard rules of use of asbestos in the country. Six categories of the goods made with application of chrysotile-asbestos, the unique kind of asbestos authorized for use in the world (the second kind – amphibole asbestos – is forbidden everywhere) have got under a sight.

EPA researchers have studied chlor-alkali membranes, sheet gaskets, brake pads, car brake pads and gaskets, and other friction materials. Today, federal laws in the U.S. are strict to chrysotile, which, however, avoided a complete ban on industrial use, unlike the European Union. The materials provided by the Agency have the potential to change the situation and, as a result, reform the global agenda both in North America and around the world.

Preliminary assessment

Even the preliminary, dashed statements of U.S. officials from the environment may be considered by many ordinary U.S. citizens as quite bold, if not revolutionary. Thus, the EPA noted that the use of asbestos-containing materials does not pose a threat to the environment under controlled use. If the owner of chrysotile-asbestos products carefully comply with all the rules prescribed by the manufacturer of the product, there is no risk to his life and health. The same can be said about workers interacting with chrysotile products directly or working at the same enterprise, consumers and those who accidentally appeared near the asbestos product. In case of observance of the established norms, their life and health is not threatened by anything.

An example of the scientific confirmation of this thesis is the research paper “Toxicology of chrysotile brake linings” by Craig A. Poland and Roger Duffin, published in 2018 in the journal “Critical reviews in toxicology”. In it, scientists have proved that the chrysotile fibers with which mechanics working in workshops interact do not have a negative impact on their health. Workers are safe if they follow the measures for controlled use of chrysotile.

Moreover, the EPA specified that in the future it may be published a list of asbestos-containing materials that will allow for use in the U.S. under the final rule, which came into force in 2019. Apparently, the EPA is serious – and there are many reasons for that.

No tale is sadder than light

History of asbestos in the USA is an extensive theme for historians of the future who will want to show visually influence of policy on the “free” market of the state. The “mountain flax”, till 70th years actively applied in industrial production because of the unique natural qualities, became a victim of the mass campaign on the blackening spent through mass media by lobbying circles in the higher echelons of power.

At the moment, the production of products based on chrysotile asbestos in the United States is significantly limited, but still not completely banned. The fact is that in North America researchers and regulators traditionally pay more attention to “risk” in the analysis of consequences of potential threats, rather than to “danger”, which is applied in the European Union. Risk is the probability of negative consequences, a statistical concept based on confirmed facts.

For example, the risk of a brick falling on a construction site is high, so builders have to wear helmets. It is not necessary to wear helmets in the bathroom, even in a brick house. But the “danger” is a potential possibility of negative consequences. That’s why the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) includes sunlight and salted fish in the list of carcinogens – indeed, they can be harmful to health, but the fish to do this you need to eat in exorbitant amounts for decades, and under the sun, you need to regularly burn to a state of medium rare steak.

It is thanks to the appeal to the assessment of “risk” part of the chrysotile industries in the U.S. managed to save, but still under the pressure of popularized public opinion in the place of many plants appeared offices, providing looting of the property of bankrupt companies.

So, some years ago the former speaker of Assembly of the State Sheldon Silver has got in prison for machinations with “asbestos” affairs. He received more than 3 million dollars in the form of referral fees for referrals of plaintiffs to a doctor who wrote out confirmation of the connection of the client’s disease with his contact with asbestos. Then the claimant went to the lawyer’s office specializing on “asbestos cases”.

Also it is possible to recollect business Johnson&Johnson, accused in presence of asbestos fibers in their powder and loud business about the real criminal organization which blackmailed New York homeowners that in their houses “will find” asbestos. Lawsuits in which asbestos was mentioned, were widely covered in mass media, provoking mass hysteria among the population.

With the arrival of Donald Trump as president, who can be considered as a spokesman for the real economy, the situation began to improve a little bit. He has repeatedly expressed support for the use of chrysotile asbestos, and in April 2019 the EPA issued a final rule allowing him to review the list of banned asbestos-containing materials and reissue a permit to manufacture or import products. Today, it is prohibited to manufacture or import clothing, construction materials, and other manufactured goods in the United States without the appropriate permit from the EPA.

Public Review of the Case

A new EPA study is still under development. It will have to go through a process of public discussion and review by independent scholars. The Agency emphasizes that the final decision will take into account the opinion of the public and researchers. The latter is particularly important as many research institutes, independent research centers and scientists around the world have been talking about the safety of chrysotile asbestos under controlled use for years. For example, in early 2020, the Indian authorities conducted an audit of their own chrysotile industry, publishing a large study confirming the voiced theses of the EPA.

And this is extremely important, because the U.S. position on many issues sets the world agenda. Thus, it is Washington that provides the core funding for the World Health Organization and, therefore, influences its activities in both the legislative and executive sectors. If chrysotile is finally justified at the official level of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the longstanding rhetoric of opponents of the “mountain flax” will lose ground under its feet. In turn, chrysotile and asbestos are first of all durable and accessible industrial materials which the economy of many developing countries needs.

Published by Ronald