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PBS NewsHour: "The stunning truth about asbestos use in the U.S."


On March 13, 2019, PBS NewsHour aired “The Stunning Truth About Asbestos Use in the U.S.” The report reminds that while asbestos is no longer a ubiquitous ingredient in building materials, it is still not banned and continues to contaminate consumer products.

The report summarizes the history of asbestos use in the U.S., the epidemic of mesothelioma that has resulted, and the current state of the regulatory response. Efforts to enact a complete ban of asbestos, beginning in the 1970s and continuing to this day, have been thwarted at every turn. The latest example being the Obama administration’s 2016 enactment of an updated Toxic Substances Control Act giving the EPA more power to regulate asbestos, only to have the Trump administration place a chemical industry lobbyist in charge of chemical safety at the EPA who refuses to study or regulate asbestos.

Describing the “David and Goliath” battle being waged by small groups of advocates against well-funded, politically connected corporate interests, former Worthington & Caron client, Paul Zygielbaum, states: “This is a carcinogen. It's deadly. It's insidious, because a disease doesn't show up for 15 to 50 years after exposure. And it's like there's a blind eye being turned to that, where that doesn't happen with many other carcinogens.”

Between the taping of his interview and the broadcast of the report, Paul Zygielbaum lost his 15-year battle with mesothelioma on January 25.

PBS science correspondent, Miles O’Brien ends with the following commentary: “Asbestos will likely take thousands of other American lives before the year ends. The deaths are slow and painful, not unlike the regulatory response to this public health crisis.”