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Aug
28

Asbestos is back!!?

The Trump Administration has loosened rules that will allow broader use of asbestos in manufacturing.  

Here’s how Fast Company put it:

A lengthy report of EPA’s new “framework” for evaluating risk, placed into effect this month, detailed how it would no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments—effectively turning a blind eye to improper disposal, contamination, emissions, and other long-term environmental and health risks associated with chemical products, including those derived from asbestos.

No one knew how dangerous asbestos was until people started dying from exposure to it. How many thousands of dads, brothers, friends, moms and sisters would have been saved if researchers had studied exposure risks and informed the public?  How many tens of billions of dollars would have been saved, not spent on medical care, remediation, lawyers fees?

I don’t think we’ll see any big increase in the use of asbestos – the litigation risk is just astronomical and no insurance company would allow it – so no business will use it (wait, there are unscrupulous business owners that will do anything for profit, so there is some risk…)

But that’s not the point.

The point is that the health risks of any number of substances, compounds, fibers, chemicals will NOT be evaluated before we are exposed to them.

I’m thinking liability insurers are going to be quite concerned by this.

With the EPA abdicating its responsibility to protect the environment and us, the risk of lawsuits and huge awards increases dramatically.

While no insurance company will accept the liability for increased use of asbestos, they may well start re-writing coverage to ensure they aren’t on the hook for tomorrow’s asbestos suits.

What does this mean for you?

Increased health risks over the long term, and increased insurance costs over the near term.


4 thoughts on “Asbestos is back!!?”

  1. How unfortunate one of the agencies that has been successful at protecting us from ourselves has done so to the degree their diligence is now viewed as superfluous. Is OSHA next?

  2. My father got ill in 1972 from working in a shipyard removing asbestos. I was in high school and the oldest of 5 kids. My father never worked again and it took several years but he was finally diagnosed with Asbestosis around 1975/1976. They originally fought that this was not related to his work and my family went through all sorts of financial problems trying to survive without my fathers income. When the federal government did finally accept his ‘disease’ as an accepted workers compensation claim, my dad was so depressed he was almost suicidal. He felt like he ‘wasn’t a man because he couldn’t provide for his wife and 5 children’. In the meantime many of the men he had worked with were dying from the same thing. They had worked in the same area with my dad but had been there for a few years where my dad had only worked there 1 1/2 years! My dad lived several years but with horrible respiratory issues. I don’t believe they call it ‘asbestosis’ anymore, but whatever they call it, Asbestos killed my father, and destroyed the last part of his life.

  3. From a colleague – Asbestos——no need to look further than the very recent St. Louis adverse jury verdicts in the $$$Millions dealt to J&J for the talc-related asbestos exposure uterine cancer cases. That has rocked J&J’s legal team because they approached the litigation believing that there was no nexus to the alleged injuries—apparently the science was there. I agree w/ you— the insurers, especially the Lloyd’s syndicate and other large capacity CGL insurers (think Bermuda and Cayman Island offshore players as well) will immediately write manuscript exclusions that will be very explicit. The cost of doing business could be prohibitive for those the commercial market using the products——without insurance coverage, the cost drivers make the proposition a non-starter in the construction industry alone.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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