On October 18, 1991, vested interests including the federal government of Canada, the province of Quebec and asbestos supporters and stakeholders successfully overturned the U.S. Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule (ABPR).
Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), said in a press conference marking the anniversary in Ottawa that the decision to overturn the EPA’s asbestos ban led to an additional 300,000 tons of the carcinogenic material being used in the U.S.
“The continuing lack of an asbestos ban in the United States has been ruthlessly exploited by industry lobbyists to promote global sales of asbestos,” Kazan-Allen noted in her statement.
U.S. Court of Appeals criticized heavily following overturn
When a three-man panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided to vacate the ABPR, the judges reportedly admitted that asbestos was, in fact, a toxic material that can have devastating consequences when people are exposed to it, including the development of lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.
Despite this clear admission that asbestos is a deadly material, the circuit judges took issue with “the manner in which the EPA conducted some of its analysis,” as well as the agency’s “explicit failure to consider the toxicity of likely substitutes,” court documents indicate.
After the ruling was handed down, American asbestos expert Dr. Barry Castleman explained that the EPA asked the Department of Justice to take on an appeal to the Supreme Court, but was rebuffed.
“EPA had to settle for issuing a statement criticizing the court for ‘significant legal errors’ in interpreting the law and substituting its judgment for that of EPA in balancing the costs and benefits of asbestos products banned under the rule,” Castleman said in a 2006 article of the European Journal of Oncology.
Effects of overturn still apparent, time to act is now
The influence of vested interests within the asbestos industry did not stop 20 years ago, as the greed of industry backers and lobbyists continues to be seen around the world, particularly in Canada.
As Kazan-Allen notes in her statement marking the “bloody anniversary,” such behavior was seen as recently as June 2011 during the Rotterdam Convention. During the convention, businessman Baljit Chadha, who is working to secure a $58 million loan guarantee for an asbestos mining project from the Quebec government, stated that there were safe levels of exposure.
While Chadha may have 58 million reasons to support such an outlandish theory, scientists continue to shake their heads, as the World Health Organization reports the age-adjusted mortality rate from mesothelioma more than doubled from 1994 to 2008.