Trump’s EPA Relaxes Asbestos Restrictions

Not only does Donald Trump want to make health care less accessible to Americans, but with the recent plans to lift restrictions on asbestos, he apparently also wants to make health itself less accessible.  The EPA is now allowing asbestos to be used in new construction. With the Significant New Use Rule enacted on June 1, 2018, the U.S. government will no longer restrict all asbestos use in construction, and will evaluate it on a case-by-case basis.

Conveniently, within the same time frame, the EPA determined new guidelines for evaluating the chemical risk of substances. The evaluation process will no longer consider the possible effects of chemical exposure in the air, water, or earth. In short, it allows the EPA to skip a comprehensive evaluation of the risk to basic environmental elements of potentially dangerous chemicals —including, of course, asbestos.

When this news was first reported, it seemed as if it might be sensationalized — fake news, if you will — since asbestos has been known for years to be one of the most dangerous substances to public health. Banned in more than 60 countries because of the clear health risks it poses, it is a known carcinogen.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated, “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis.” It further states that there is no safe amount of asbestos.

Yet Donald Trump supports its new use in American buildings. “It’s 100-percent safe,” he has claimed in the face of myriad scientific and medical evidence to the contrary. “I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal.” Trump has also claimed on several occasions that if the World Trade Center had had asbestos, it wouldn’t have burned.

Donald Trump has reversed a number of policies protecting the health and well-being of Americans and of the environment. Sometimes, he has appeared to do so for the sole purpose of obliterating all things Obama, or to please his base by defying “Liberals” and what they represent. This case, however, is neither. The Clean Air Act of 1973, which began the process of banning asbestos products, and the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule of 1989, were both passed during Republican administrations.

More compelling motivators for Trump than the appeasement of his base, are profit, and, it seems, Putin. According to the Washington Post, almost all (95 percent) of the asbestos used in the U.S. has, until recently, been from Brazil, with the small remainder coming from Russia.  But since Brazil recently banned the mining and sale of asbestos, the gap will easily be filled by…Russia. In fact, the Russians are already anticipating the boom in sales. According to Rolling Stone (and verified by television station KHOU11 of Houston Texas), one asbestos manufacturer has already begun using an image of Donald Trump on its packaging.

EPA official pushes back on criticism of asbestos proposal | CBS Evening News [2018-08-08]

VERIFY: Was asbestos labeled ‘Trump-approved?’ | KHOU11 [2018-08-09]

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