Dangers of Existing Asbestos in Boston Homes

For more than a hundred years beginning with the Industrial Revolution in the United States and parts of Europe, asbestos was used in many industries including manufacturing, residential, commercial, and industrial construction, and countless other applications. At first, asbestos was used for its excellent ability to withstand extreme heat, fire, caustic chemicals, and electricity.

Boston AsbestosIt was actually around 2,000 years ago when humans first discovered these properties, and began to extract the naturally occurring silica-based minerals from the ground, and even at this time, there were historical documents uncovered showing there was a concern the substance could be toxic.  While it wasn’t until 1924 when the first case of mesothelioma was officially diagnosed, it was known that people exposed were dying decades later.   As discussed in an scientific article from the British Medical Journal, this discovery came from research on the hazards then being linked to what was still being referred to as the magic mineral. However, the asbestos industry did everything it could to keep this from the general public because the material was so cheap to mine and there was little production needed to get the mineral to a marketable form.  This meant it was very profitable to be in the asbestos industry.  They also knew it would take many decades after initial exposure for workers to become sick so they were better able to hide the dangers. It may be hard to imagine in today’s world how such a big secret could be kept from millions of Americans, but the control of information was much greater as there was no internet or even any real semblance of modern communications methods, so people were dependent on getting all of their news from the radio, a newspaper, or perhaps a news reel before a movie at many theaters, as was popular during that time.

Dangers of Asbestos Led to EPA Ban in the 1970s

It was in the late 1960s when the public began to understand the dangers of asbestos exposure. Over the next decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), banned the use of all asbestos.  However, the industry quickly filed a lawsuit against the EPA arguing the agency did not have the authority to ban the mining, manufacture, and importation of asbestos without an act of Congress, so the ban was quickly overturned.

However, our Boston asbestos exposure injury lawyers know  the public had become aware of the dangers of asbestos. So it was constructively banned since so many consumers wanted nothing to do with the substance, and its use fell largely into disfavor. This certainly helped in terms of a reduction of asbestos being installed in new home construction, but even with the last major use of asbestos in homes occurring over 40 years ago, we still have more than 15,000 Americans dying each year from asbestos-related illness.

Much of this exposure was from employees in various industries being exposed to the deadly asbestos fibers prior to the 1970s.  Asbestos is comprised of microscopic fibers, which can become trapped in the human body when they are inhaled or ingested.  These fibers typically get trapped in a layer of protective tissue known as the mesothelium, and then over a period spanning decades, they metastasize into the deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is in a dust form because it is very easy breathe in this dust.

One of the more common uses for asbestos was in the manufacture of floor and ceiling tiles.  When the asbestos was being mined from the ground, many workers involved in this process were in danger of asbestos exposure. The workers at the tile manufacturing plant were also at high risk for asbestos exposure. Once the tiles were manufactured, they would pose a danger to the construction workers who were routinely cutting the tiles and gluing them into place. The glue, or mastic, as it is often called, was also made from asbestos in many cases, so this only served to increase the danger of exposure to asbestos in Massachusetts.  However, once the tiles were in the home or other building, they were largely considered safe for occupants, since a floor tiles, once installed, will not admit any dust.

Dangers of Friable Asbestos in Boston Mesothelioma Cases

This will not last forever, as the tiles will eventually start to break down from years of wear and can begin giving off dust, which can be inhaled by occupants in the home. When asbestos is capable of being crushed by a human hand, it is known as friable asbestos, which is very dangerous in terms of asbestos exposure. We would think the FDA would be working to address this issue, but the present administration is now issuing an order that does not allow the agency to evaluate any asbestos that is already present in homes in Boston and across the nation, as discussed in a recent news article from Huffington Post.

President Trump had once argued in his 1997 book that the fears of dangers of asbestos were part of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by organized crime so they would have more work performing asbestos abatement. Specifically, this new direction for the agency involved changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 2016.  This act signed into law by the previous administration allowed the EPA to list toxic chemicals and other hazardous material considered to be a threat and formulate a plan to study the issues and work to make Americans safer.  Asbestos was very high on the agency’s list for priorities, but under the new administration, this is no longer the case;  it was announced the EPA would only be involved in the approval for new uses of asbestos, but would take no action or do no work to assess the risk of asbestos already in the home or other structures. This is causing serious concerns, but hopefully the agency will reconsider its position by realizing the obvious dangers of asbestos in Boston and across the country.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Donald Trump Called Asbestos Poisoning A Mob-Led Conspiracy, Now His EPA Won’t Evaluate Asbestos Already In Homes, June 8, 2018, By Nick Goodkind, Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:
Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog