Asbestos Industry Still Going Strong, Despite Health Risks
The asbestos industry has undergone drastic changes over the last several decades in response to the many discoveries about the many harmful effects of asbestos exposure. Although there are many products that still use asbestos in some form even today, a great many others have also been banned from production in the United States. The problem is that long after these banned products have been pulled from the marketplace, the permanent damage caused by being exposed to them remains, and the asbestos industry today fights tooth and nail against paying claims for any past damage done by their industry.
Early Industrial Cover-Ups of Asbestos Danger
Leaders in the asbestos fiber industry knew about the many health risks (including cancer and pulmonary disease) of their products decades ago. There is ample evidence proving this in the form of medical and professional reports, internal memos and trade organization reports within the industry. Most of the large industrial manufacturers either ignored or downplayed the obvious health hazards of asbestos for years, however, until the government and even some trade organizations forced their hands. Why? Because until they had no other choice, they protected profits above employee health.
Fortunately, the outcry of organizations such as the Industrial Hygiene Foundation and advocates from the medical community pushed those in the industry who used asbestos to come to terms with their problems. Increased safety procedures (see asbestos abatement), warning labels and proper training for workers were some of the measures that organizations pushed into place in this industry.
The Global Asbestos Industry and Its Fight for Survival
Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. Asbestos use in the United States is still not banned, and there are dozens of products, such as roofing shingles, cement pipes and vinyl flooring, that still contain asbestos.
How the Asbestos Industry Protects Its Interests
The bad news is that there is still a long way to go and corporations invested in today’s asbestos related industries are still trying to protect the investment dollars of companies by minimizing worker health and safety as well as minimizing pay-outs to those who have suffered permanent and life-threatening damage from asbestos exposure. Some of the ways industry insiders are trying to protect their profits at the expense of their employee’s health includes:
- Using political clout to support the passing of resolutions putting a cap on the amount of compensation that individuals can claim when they sue for damages caused by asbestos.
- Attempting to establish government trust funds to be used to pay out settlements against those in asbestos related industries, thereby making sure taxpayers are paying for the problems of the companies instead.
- Lobbying on Capital Hill for various tax credits and tax breaks based on settlements and payments made to victims of asbestos damage. By receiving tax breaks for losing litigation, the industry is attempting to be rewarded for its mistakes.
This industry is a powerful, wealthy block of corporations. They continue to try and minimize the potential danger of products containing asbestos by emphasizing to the public their safety precautions while down-playing the suffering of the millions who have been exposed to asbestos in the past. It seems likely that in the near future, there won’t be any great improvements until the asbestos industry is held accountable to a much higher standard.
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