National Asbestos Legislation
U.S. policymakers have tried to introduce laws to ban asbestos, but all have failed. A limited number of asbestos uses are banned under the Toxic Substances Control Act, but many remain legal, including automobile brake pads and clutches, certain roofing materials and corrugated sheeting.
The dangers of asbestos are well-known in the U.S. Everyone knows the health hazards related to exposure, but America does not have a comprehensive federal law addressing the issue.
Instead, those issues largely are left to individual states. Each state has different approaches for dealing with risks and legal claims.
Federal legislation to ensure that claimants can be compensated for sickness, loss of life and loss of wages has also been limited.
Federal laws were passed to create compensation systems for other types of claimants. The Black Lung Benefits Act created a program for U.S. coal miners. A similar program has not been established for people who are sick because of asbestos exposure.
Working with specialized mesothelioma lawyers provides the best chance for people harmed by asbestos to receive compensation.
Major legislation on asbestos abatement and tort reform have been considered at the federal level.
There are two main federal agencies in charge of enforcing asbestos abatement legislation: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The EPA and OSHA were instrumental in the evolution of asbestos abatement litigation. Both agencies deal with workers who often come into contact with asbestos.
However, one of the biggest threats to those unfairly injured by asbestos exposure is the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act.
It would require asbestos trusts to publicly disclose information about the settlement terms between trusts and claimants. Current state and federal laws consider these negotiations private and confidential. They are not currently subject to discovery or admissible in court cases.
History of Asbestos Use & Legislation
By the 1930s, medical evidence had already linked asbestos exposure with deadly diseases. Asbestos manufacturers knew about the early evidence. Many of them did not warn workers or the public about the dangers and potential future health issues. Routine use of asbestos in construction and industrial products continued.
Asbestos-related diseases do not surface until decades after exposure, so the health hazards did not receive widespread public attention until the 1960s and 1970s. Soon, the health risks of asbestos were too big to hide.
During the 1970s, the U.S. government issued guidelines to limit asbestos exposure. These guidelines were followed by more federal, state and local public safety laws during the 1980s.
Through the late 1980s, much of the attention surrounding asbestos focused on abatement. It involves encapsulating or removing asbestos from existing buildings. There were also calls for laws to ban the use of the toxic mineral.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sponsored the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007, but it died in Congress. In 2009, she also sponsored a bill that led to recognition of September 26 as National Mesothelioma Awareness Day. On June 1, 2018, the EPA proposed a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for asbestos. The SNUR could allow the EPA to review and approve new asbestos products.