Workers still exposed to asbestos at high levels
Many years have passed since asbestos use became limited in the United States, yet the effects are still felt by workers and families alike. Those employed by steel mills, paper mills, shipyards and more put their lives in danger every day simply by going to work. Unlike other substances, overall evidence suggests there isn’t a safe level of asbestos exposure and any amount can lead to health problems.
Numerous countries around the world have enforced an asbestos ban, but others continue using the dangerous fibers at different levels. During the peak year of 1980, asbestos use hit 4.7 trillion metric tons. Despite a 55 percent decline over the last 35 years, 2 million metric tons per year are still used around the world.
The United States is among the countries yet to ban asbestos. A 2015 study published in the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology journal set out to determine if various workplaces followed the compliance measurements from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
According to OSHA, the permissible exposure limit is 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter of air. Employers must keep employee exposure within this amount. The study examined trends from 1984 to 2011 and found the samples ranged from .001 to 175 f/cc. From 2001 to 2011, asbestos measurements exceeded 10 f/cc in automotive repair, construction, chemical and manufacturing industries. Decades after the monitoring of asbestos levels became crucial, workers are still exposed without being aware.
Asbestos-related diseases take decades to develop, causing those exposed before the guidelines to be at high risk for illness today. In fact, the only known cause for mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Years after employment, workers and their families may be diagnosed with this deadly cancer.
This information comes after the Environmental Working Group Action Fund determined the rate of asbestos deaths in the United States is higher than previously estimated at 12,000 to 15,000 each year. This silent killer takes decades to develop and most victims succumb to various diseases – like mesothelioma and lung cancer – within a year.
Studies maintain the danger of asbestos due to no safe level, yet lives are at risk everyday. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos in the past and developed mesothelioma or lung cancer, contact us immediately, even if you smoked.
- Thales J. Cheng, Dallas M. Cowan, Matthew Ground, Amy K. Madl, Jennifer Sahmel & Allysha Varughese, “Analysis of workplace compliance measurements of asbestos by the U.S. OSHA (1984-2011), Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (August 2015). [Link]
- EWG Action Fund, “Mapping the deadly toll of asbestos – state by state, county by county,” Asbestos Nation (June 30, 2015). [Link]
- Jiang, T. Kameda, R. Kim, M. Movahed, E.K. Park, J. Rantanen & K. Takahashi, “Asbestos: Use, bans and disease burden in Europe,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization (Sept. 17, 2014). [Link]
- OSHA Fact Sheet, “Asbestos.” [Link]