EPA To Ease Asbestos Regulations

Asbestos has not been produced in the United States for decades, and while it is still being imported in small quantities, the real danger lies in the asbestos that fills many of the older buildings in Boston and the rest of the nation.

According to a recent news article from the Boston Herald, the current presidential administration is attempting to step back from the mandated review of asbestos and other toxic chemicals that was established by U.S. Congress and the Obama administration.  This includes a review of the dangers posed by what is estimated at millions of tons of asbestos in buildings across the county.

Boston MesotheliomaWhen asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can become trapped in a layer of tissue called the mesothelium that serves as a protective membrane from most of the internal organs in the human body.  Once these fibers become trapped, they can metastasize into the deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma.

Liability in Boston Mesothelioma Cases

As our Boston mesothelioma lawyers can explain, this process typically takes between 20 and 50 years before a plaintiff has noticeable symptoms and goes to a doctor to find out what is wrong. Once the plaintiff goes to the doctor, he or she is often told they have a very short time left to live as most mesothelioma victims will not live more than a year or two after first being diagnosed. This time delay between initial occupational exposure to asbestos, and an eventual diagnosis, is why the makers of asbestos were able to get away with knowingly poisoning people for so long.  This was a time when the asbestos industry was well aware of the toxic nature of asbestos, but the general public, and even those who worked with asbestos every day, were not aware of this dangers.

It may seem hard to believe they could keep such a huge secret, but when we think of how this was a time before the internet and a 24-hour news cycle, information was nowhere near as readily ascertainable as it was today.

A mesothelioma lawsuit filed in Boston can include various claims, but one of those claims will likely be failure to warn of a known danger. This is a separate type of claim, but it is one based in negligence. The first question is whether the manufacture had a duty of due care towards victims.  In  the case of workers at the asbestos mine, and those in the manufacturing industry, as well the construction workers, who handled the toxic substance on a regular basis, there is generally not much of a question.  However, when it comes to those not directly working with the toxic asbestos fibers, it can become more of a difficult situation.

For example, when an employee worked in an asbestos filled environment, such as in new home construction during the 1950s, he would likely come home from work with boots and clothes covered with dust, and some of that dust would contained deadly asbestos fibers.  He might hug his wife and kids when he got home, or otherwise track the deadly fibers all of the home.  This could result in family members becoming sick, and this is what Boston asbestos lawyers refer to as a take home asbestos case.  There have been different opinions across the nation on whether the asbestos manufacturer owed a duty of due care towards to these family members.

Duty of Due Care in Mesothelioma Cases

This essential comes down to whether the plaintiffs were in the zone of danger based upon the presumption of a reasonable and prudent defendant at the time the injury occurred.  A landmark opinion by the late judge Benjamin Cardozo, entitled Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company, involved a woman was standing on the end of a railroad platform at a station when workers a great distance away were helping passengers load a large crate onto a train.  The box was dropped, which turned to be filled with fireworks that exploded and hit the unsuspecting women.  The court ultimately held she was so far from where the accident occurred, she was outside of what a reasonable and prudent person would consider the zone of danger, so the defendants did not owe her a duty of care.

While this was a very old case, it has lead to a line of cases that deal with the issue of foreseeability and whether a duty of care is owed, including those cases involving mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure.   This is a complicated issue so the best thing a plaintiff should do is to speak with his or her experienced asbestos attorney about the facts of his or her actual case.

With respect to the changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mission.  The current presidential administration wishes to only focus on hazardous chemicals that are still being manufactured in large quantities, and not worry about chemicals that are no longer being produced or imported on a large scale, and this includes asbestos.  Researchers are worried about only focusing on the few hundred tons of asbestos that are imported each year, while ignoring the harm posed by the roughly 9 million tons of asbestos that are already in the U.S.

Occupational Exposure to Mesothelioma

Firefighters and public health workers are among the most vocal groups of opponents to these policy shifts since firefighters are often at a very  high risk for asbestos exposure. When a three-decker is burning  in Boston, the brave men and women of the Boston Fire Department (BFD) go running in knowing that they are about to exposed to friable asbestos dust.  While they are willing to take that risk to protect the lives of others, they want as much information and research about how to prevent them from becoming sick, and they feel this new policy shift is a move in the wrong direction.  The main proponents of scaling back asbestos research is those in the industry and that should not really come of much of a surprise, since these companies are liable for the mesothelioma cases.  One retired firefighter even went so far as to say that he believes the industry is killing firefighters. This retired firefighter only retired after being diagnosed with cancer attributed to  occupational exposure.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Toxins in Widespread Use Excluded from EPA Chemical Review, October 25, 2017, Associated Press

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

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