EPA ignores those most at risk for mesothelioma

Analyzing the potential of asbestos exposure for high-risk workers is essential for keeping them safe on the job. Unfortunately, those who are most likely to encounter asbestos will be left out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new risk analysis strategy. Leaving these workers out of the equation could put more people in South Carolina at risk for developing mesothelioma, a deadly cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.

Legacy asbestos is a serious problem for firefighters, electricians, plumbers, roofers and other blue-collar workers. This toxic substance was once commonly used as an insulator and for other building projects, so when it comes time to replace old tiling or tear down walls, the fibers can easily end up in the air. Inhaling those fibers can have serious medical consequences. Although the EPA is currently looking at the ongoing use of asbestos and other toxic chemicals, it says it will not consider the risks associated with legacy asbestos, blue collar workers or the ways in which new uses might hurt these people.

Public comments criticizing the EPA’s risk analysis strategy came from unlikely sources — such as physicians and public health officials — who usually do not weigh in on such matters. These individuals and groups expressed their concern over the planned policies, which they say ignores many of the possible situations in which individuals might be exposed to one of 10 chemicals. The EPA has said that it does not plan to consider all of the possible ways in which an exposure might occur, which could lead to looser regulations that ultimately put more people at risk.

Mesothelioma is a devastating cancer that is known to be caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, and victims often develop it after exposure at their place of work. When South Carolina employers know that their workers will be handling asbestos, they must provide adequate warning, training and safety gear. If they fail to do so, victims of mesothelioma may be able to hold them responsible through the careful actions of a civil court claim.

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