Asbestos products are not entirely banned in the United States and people are still at considerable risk of suffering toxic exposures. While heavily regulated since 1971, many common products contain asbestos. Contact with these products puts workers in numerous industries at significant risk of developing cancers and other asbestos-related injuries.
Deaths from Asbestos in the United States
From 1999 to 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 45,221 mesothelioma deaths in the United States. During that period, the number of mesothelioma deaths increased by 4.8%. One reason for this is that mesothelioma is a slowly progressing cancer that can take years, and even decades to become fatal.
Further, even minor exposure to asbestos can cause deadly contamination. This can include actions as minor as hugging someone wearing asbestos containing clothing or handling a container of talcum powder.
Legal Asbestos Products
Asbestos remains legal to use in a significant number of common materials. It is used in fireproof clothing and to construct vinyl flooring. It is used within cement corrugated sheets, cement shingles, and cement flat sheets. Asbestos is used within drum brake linings, brake blocks, and within automatic transmissions. It is also used in several forms of roof coatings, pipeline warps, roofing felt, and millboard. Not long ago, asbestos was also discovered within talc products, specifically baby powder that was manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.
The Hazards Lurking Within Old Buildings and Imported Products
Storms, fires, and the general demolition of older structures can release deadly asbestos into the air. Contact with these airborne particulates can cause toxic exposures that may go undetected until a thorough examination of the structure is performed.
Moreover, many imported products are known to contain high levels of asbestos. Many of these are seemingly innocuous and include crayons, clothing, toys, and building materials. In 2015 alone, the United States imported more than 350 tons of asbestos that were utilized to produce soaps, alkaline batteries, and many other products.
Between 70-80% of this raw material is utilized within the construction industry which means those individuals involved in manufacturing, handling, and installing these materials are at considerable risk of developing mesothelioma. While OSHA stipulates strict safety and handling standards, studies on construction sites in 2003 demonstrated that 20% of air samples within construction sites contained dangerous levels of asbestos that were far in excess of legal limits.