History of Asbestos Legislation
Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were used widely throughout the U.S. for their durability and unique heat-resistant qualities. But ACM manufacturers hid the truth about the dangers of asbestos for years.
Once the dangers of asbestos began to be more widely understood, federal, state, local authorities, and other regulatory agencies have spent decades attempting to control asbestos use and limit exposure to the toxic material. However, these asbestos regulations are complicated, and this naturally occurring mineral still poses health risks to people today.
Not everyone believed asbestos was safe. As early as the 1930s, health authorities were warning Americans that asbestos was a carcinogen and exposure to its fibers would cause diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Asbestos rules are developed by regulatory bodies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The following is a brief summary of asbestos legislation:
- The Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 was the first piece of U.S. legislation to identify asbestos fibers as toxic.
- By the late 1970s, doctors diagnosed thousands of mesothelioma and asbestosis cases, and asbestos lawsuits against negligent asbestos companies flooded the courts.
- Following such an increase in severe asbestos-related illnesses, the EPA made a gallant effort in the late 1980s to put a blanket phase-out and ban on all ACM, but this was struck down by a circuit court appeal. Manufacturers continued to put profits above health and safety.
All legislation and regulatory efforts since have been directed at controlling asbestos that is already present in our nation’s buildings, products, and structures. They’ve also aimed at tightening civil court substantive and procedural law on how asbestos lawsuits are litigated.
For the next four decades, U.S. legislators struggled with how to prevent asbestos-containing products from making people sick. They attempted to ban asbestos from every workplace and to streamline asbestos-related lawsuits in the civil courts.
There has been some degree of success. However, the asbestos health problem was enormous and still affects thousands of families in the U.S. each year.
Federal Asbestos Legislation
Most of the important laws controlling asbestos are federal legislation passed by U.S. Congress. Some are general bills making reference to asbestos as a toxic material, while others are specific acts directly addressing asbestos dangers.
The following are significant federal laws pertaining to how asbestos is controlled in the United States.
Federal Hazardous Substances Act
The Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) was passed in 1960 but was later amended in 1986 to include asbestos as a known hazard.
The FHSA attempted to prohibit asbestos importation and manufacturing but has only affected a small number of asbestos products in the U.S.
Clean Air Act
One of the Environmental Protection Agency’s primary mandates was dealing with air pollution. In 1970, the EPA had Congress amend the original Air Pollution Control Act to modernize it with enforcement tools.
Amendments in 1977 and 1990 identified maximum exposure limits for airborne asbestos in workplaces.
The Clean Air Act is still the main federal legislation pertaining to asbestos exposure. However, it doesn’t mention any specific asbestos products.
Safe Drinking Water Act
This was another EPA initiative passed by Congress in 1976. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) identifies asbestos as a toxic substance and specifies intolerable asbestos in the nation’s potable water supply.
Toxic Substances Control Act
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was another EPA initiative passed in 1976. This became a leading move to designate asbestos as a toxic substance and specify how it should be contained, stored, and disposed of.
The TSCA doesn’t give the EPA any enforcement powers, which is a major criticism of the act.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980 as a Superfund to help clean large contaminated sites. Some of these sites were polluted with asbestos.
Asbestos Information Act
In 1988, Congress enacted the Asbestos Information Act (AIA), which was designed to provide public health information and education on asbestos dangers. This forced manufacturers to label asbestos products with warnings of their potential health hazards.
Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
By 1990, there was a growing public fear of asbestos exposure. The EPA had Congress declare a national emergency to deal with asbestos control. This act primarily addressed asbestos in schools and accredited asbestos inspectors.
Asbestos Litigation Laws
By the late 20th century, asbestos litigation became the largest tort in the United States civil courts. Today, it’s the longest-running mass tort in American legal history. As such, certain civil acts were passed to deal with asbestos litigation.
The most important legislation related to asbestos litigation includes the following:
- Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994: Asbestos lawsuits quickly amassed into a multibillion dollar industry. Huge settlements forced many asbestos companies to seek Chapter 11 protection of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The act was reformed in 1994 to allow companies seeking bankruptcy protection to establish independently administered asbestos trust funds to pay claimants.
- Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) Act of 2006: The FAIR Act attempted to help streamline the thousands of asbestos lawsuits in U.S. civil courts. Critics complain this act is unfair to both plaintiffs and defendants.
- Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015 and 2017: The FACT Act tried to sort out the FAIR Act but hasn’t been passed by Congress. It’s been handed back for further committee discussion.
Finding Support for an Asbestos-Related Illness
There’s been a wide variety of asbestos legislation passed by government agencies at the federal, state, and municipal levels to protect innocent people from the negligence of asbestos-based product manufacturers.
If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos and later developed mesothelioma or another related disease, you have the right to pursue financial compensation and seek justice for pain and suffering.
The team at Mesothelioma Hope is dedicated to helping victims and their families access high-quality medical care and expert legal services. Get your Free Mesothelioma Guide today to learn more or contact us directly at (866) 608-8933 to discuss your options.
Asbestos Legislation FAQs
Is asbestos banned in the United States?
Asbestos is not yet fully banned in the United States, and some people may still be put at risk of asbestos exposure and developing serious asbestos-related illnesses.
I have been exposed to asbestos. What resources are available to me?
People who were exposed to asbestos and developed an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma, can access resources that can help them access and pay for treatment.
Order our Free Mesothelioma Guide to learn more about treatment options and financial assistance.
How do I know if I was exposed to asbestos?
If you worked in a high-risk asbestos occupation between the 1930s and 1980s, it is very likely you were exposed to high levels of asbestos. Even those who worked after more asbestos legislation was passed may still be at risk because no amount of asbestos is safe.
Additionally, symptoms of asbestos exposure may not become evident until 10-50 years after initial exposure. For this reason, many may not know they are at risk of developing serious illnesses. To determine if you might have been exposed, read more about specific asbestos work sites or contact our Patient Advocates at (866) 608-8933