U.S. Faces Coming Asbestos Health Crisis, Group Says

Despite the common public perception that asbestos went out with bell bottoms and disco, the fact is that asbestos — like, uh, bell bottoms and disco — is still with us. In fact, claims a report released today by the Environmental Working Group, we are poised to enter an asbestos-related public-health crisis: An estimated 100,000 Americans will die over the next decade from diseases linked to asbestos exposure, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer. EWG recommends public screening, assistance for victims, and an immediate ban on asbestos. Yup, that’s right — like disco, asbestos is still perfectly legal. A 1989 ban by the U.S. EPA was overturned in an industry lawsuit. “That was the last time the EPA tried to ban anything,” said EWG Vice President Richard Wiles. “They figured that if they couldn’t ban asbestos — a known carcinogen for which no level of exposure is safe — what could they ban?” Republican-sponsored legislation in the Senate would shield asbestos manufacturers from legal liability and establish a trust fund for victims.