The United States just announced a ban on asbestos. Why did it take so long?

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By journalsofus.com


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The United States has announced a ban on the only form of asbestos currently used or imported into the country, decades after most developed countries began phasing out the carcinogenic raw material.

The move by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comes after it failed to ban asbestos more than three decades ago.

The carcinogen has already been banned in more than 50 countries.

It is linked to about 40,000 deaths each year in the United States from lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers.

Use of the carcinogen has gradually declined over the years, but it still persists as a building material in millions of homes and buildings across the United States.

Linda Reinstein, an advocate against asbestos for the past 20 years after her husband died following repeated exposure to the substance, says she broke down in tears after learning of Monday’s ban.

The United States has for many years been “the model of not doing the right thing” when it comes to asbestos, he told the BBC.

He noted that the United Kingdom passed a ban on asbestos a quarter of a century ago.

Reinstein says the U.S. ban is more limited than anti-asbestos measures passed by all other countries.

“We are the only Western industrial nation that does not completely ban asbestos,” he told the BBC.

“What does that say about us as a country?”

On Monday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the ban applied only to chrysotile asbestos, also known as “white asbestos,” the only type known to be imported for use in the United States.

Industries that still use white asbestos will have up to 12 years to stop using it.

White asbestos is fire-resistant and is still used by U.S. companies to make vehicle brakes, according to the EPA.

Some chemical companies also use it to produce chlorine, which in turn is used to purify drinking water.

But an expert told the BBC that other types of asbestos are not covered by Monday’s ban.

Brenda Buck, a professor of medical geology at the University of Nevada, told the BBC that the EPA’s announcement was “one small step” in the effort to rid the United States of asbestos.

White asbestos is “generally less dangerous” than five other types, he said.

Dr. Buck said her fear now is that industries will switch to other forms of asbestos that have not yet been banned by EPA rules.

The anti-asbestos movement gained momentum in the 1980s, when schools across the United States began removing it from buildings amid health fears.

In 1989, the EPA attempted to ban asbestos after finding conclusive evidence of its dangers. But two years later, a federal court overturned the ban.

The ruling found that the EPA had failed to find the “least burdensome alternative” for companies that rely on asbestos, as required by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

In 2016, Congress reformed TSCA to remove the “least burdensome” language, paving the way for the EPA’s ban announced Monday.

The U.S. effort to ban asbestos stalled after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, when his administration oversaw the EPA.

In testimony before Congress in 2005, Trump, a real estate developer, described asbestos as “the best fireproofing material ever made.”

In a 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, he said the anti-substance movement was being led by the mafia, “because it was often mafia-related companies that did the asbestos removal work.”

In 2012, he tweeted that the World Trade Center would not have “burned down” in the attacks of September 11, 2001 if its “incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos” had not been removed.

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