Is asbestos abatement necessary?
Around 39,000 workers die every year from asbestos-related diseases
Asbestos abatement workers were deemed essential long before the pandemic. Property owners are legally required to call abatement teams in to remove asbestos any time there’s construction, renovation, or retrofitting. During the coronavirus pandemic, some asbestos jobs have accelerated as several cities are taking advantage of the closures of public spaces to schedule renovations.
While the timing makes sense for cities, it’s not so great for abatement workers, whose occupational risks make them especially vulnerable to serious complications of COVID-19.
In the U.S., around 39,000 workers die every year from asbestos-related diseases. About 3,000 of these deaths are from mesothelioma, a malignant form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure. “Mesothelioma can occur at relatively low levels of exposure,” said Victor Roggli, a professor of pathology at Duke University.
The COVID-19 pandemic makes these workers more vulnerable. News of an asbestos abatement worker’s death from COVID-19 has appeared almost daily in a Facebook feed.
Asbestos is banned in more than 60 countries, but in the U.S. asbestos can still be used in everyday products such as automotive brake pads and gaskets, roofing products, and fireproof clothing.
EPA chief pledges more cleanups, less focus on climate
Wheeler pledged to require cost-benefit analyses
Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler defended the Trump administration’s record on protecting the nation’s air and water.
In a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the EPA’s founding, Wheeler said the agency was moving back toward an approach that had long promoted economic growth as well as a healthy environment and drawn bipartisan support.
Environmental groups and former EPA chiefs from both parties have accused Wheeler and his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, of undermining the agency’s mission by weakening or eliminating dozens of regulations intended to protect air and water quality, reduce climate change and protect endangered species.
In his remarks, Wheeler pledged to require cost-benefit analyses for proposed rules and to make public the scientific justification for regulations, saying it would “bring much needed sunlight into our regulatory process” and saying opponents “want decisions to be made behind closed doors.”
Critics say a science “transparency” policy EPA is considering would hamper development of health and safety regulations by preventing consideration of studies with confidential information about patients and businesses.