Not surprisingly, two decades after the ban, asbestos still kills 5,000 Britons each year. That’s because symptoms of disease often don’t show up until 20 to 40 years – or more – after exposure. This long exposure time is one of the reasons it is often not recognized as an imminent danger, yet the fibers inhaled many years in the past are poised to show up as lung cancer, asbestosis, or the deadly mesothelioma after the initial exposure is just a memory.
Asbestos still kills 5,000 Britons each year
The long exposure time is only one reason it is still killing after all these years. Though the mineral was outlawed 20 years ago in Britain, asbestos still exists in government, commercial, and residential buildings built before 1999. While not a threat when undisturbed, these buildings often are at an age when renovation, or even demolition, is required. If this work is not done by an authorized abatement company, the possibility of exposure from the dust created is high. To cut corners, renovators and do-it-yourself handymen often skip this critical step and the countdown to possible diseases in the distant future starts again.
The report from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) verified that people today are still being exposed – often because of non-compliance with regulations. In the past year, over 130 British companies or individuals were ordered to stop work because of rule-breaking.
As Bev Bessinger, IOSH chief executive said, “It is unacceptable that 20 years on from asbestos being banned in Britain, organisations are still potentially putting at risk the lives of employees, their families, and other members of the public. Thousands die in Britain every year from cancers like mesothelioma, while many more are diagnosed with it. All this is preventable through good occupational safety and health. It is time for organisations to wake up and realise how dangerous asbestos is. There are no excuses.”
Dr. Nick Hopkinson, medical director at the British Lung Foundation, reinforced this message by confirming, “Currently the only treatments available are aimed at slowing the progression of the disease and improving quality of life. This devastating disease is preventable, and the dangers of asbestos are well known. It’s vital companies are vigilant and take the proper precautions to protect people from the life-threatening dangers of asbestos, and take urgent action if asbestos has been found.”
Asbestos still kills 15,000 Americans each year
This number of deaths is not acceptable. The United States has not taken the necessary steps to ban asbestos, even though it has been banned in 55 countries. Though some uses are no longer allowed in the US, others are – especially in commercial applications. We know homes and other buildings constructed before the 1980s have a high likelihood of asbestos in areas such as drywall, insulation, siding, roofing, tile mastic, and insulation around pipes. When will the US stop new uses of this deadly mineral?
Brakes on the Toxic Substances Control Act
This act showed promise to finally ban, or strictly control, asbestos as it was identified as one of the ten high risk chemicals set for EPA evaluation. Unfortunately, the ground rules for the EPA’s evaluation under the Trump administration has softened the likelihood of a ban and shockingly, may perhaps even allow new uses of the fiber.
A legacy of death for the future
Like those in the U.K. who work on demolition or renovation of pre-1980 era buildings, workers and their families can be exposed to asbestos if not careful to have suspicious areas checked by an abatement professional. Click here to see a comprehensive FAQ checklist of asbestos products, reporting information, and testing guidelines. Since there is no outright ban, new asbestos-containing materials can still be imported into the US. As seen in the British report, once a ban is in place, people contracting asbestos-related diseases continue for decades into the future. Until importation and new uses are stopped completely, there is no end in sight for the victims of asbestos.