President Trump has voiced controversial opinions on a wide range of topics and the Asbestos industry is no exception. In our latest blog we take a look at some of the comments Trump has made and the impact this may have on Asbestos use and production in the US.
Lets start by taking a look at how the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration define Asbestos.
- Substance: “Asbestos” is the name of a class of magnesium-silicate minerals that occur in fibrous form. Minerals that are included in this group are chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite asbestos, tremolite asbestos, and actinolite asbestos.
Health Hazard Data
- Asbestos can cause disabling respiratory disease and various types of cancers if the fibers are inhaled. Inhaling or ingesting fibers from contaminated clothing or skin can also result in these diseases. The symptoms of these diseases generally do not appear for 20 or more years after initial exposure.
- Exposure to asbestos has been shown to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancer of the stomach and colon. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the thin membrane lining of the chest and abdomen.
(information provided from Standard Number 1926.1101 App H – Safety & Health regulations for construction – Substance Technical Information for Asbestos)
What does Trump think about asbestos?
In his book ‘The art of the comeback’ Trump wrote “I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented. Millions of truckloads of this incredible fire-proofing material were taken to special ‘dump sites’ and asbestos was replaced by materials that were supposedly safe but couldn’t hold a candle to asbestos in limiting the ravages of fire.”
The world health organisation estimate that 110,000 people die, each year, because of asbestos related illnesses. The figure in the US is around 15,000 per annum and here in the UK it is around 5,000.
In 2012, in a rather heated exchange on twitter, Trump responded to a Mesothelioma widow by stating that “If we didn’t remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work, the world trade centre would have never burned down”. He also made a similar argument in 2005 to the government affairs committee “A lot of people could say that if the World Trade Centre had asbestos it would not have burned down, and it wouldn’t have melted, okay? A lot of people in my industry think asbestos is the greatest fireproofing material ever made” You can watch the video clip here:
Although some asbestos had been removed it is estimated that around 400 tons of the material were still present within the buildings when they collapsed. The world trade centre health registry has estimated that, during the rescue, recovery and clean up, around 400,000 people were exposed to the deadly fibres.
As a climate change denier, Trump has stated his intention to increase US coal production to create more jobs so there is a chance that Asbestos mining production could also increase. America is rich in the resource and with many countries, including the US, still using asbestos materials there is a chance that production could be increased.
As of 2015 Trumps real estate holdings are worth around $3.5bn with the property tycoon recently stating that business will continue, albeit with new management. Could future buildings be constructed with deadly asbestos materials?
In 1983 Iceland became the first country to ban asbestos and a further 50 countries followed suit. The US is one of very few major industrialised nations that has not banned asbestos entirely in all of its forms. It continues to be used in gaskets, friction products, roofing materials, fireproofing materials and hundreds of consumer products that are used every day so it’s perfectly feasible that its usage could further increase. However, should this be the case, property developers could face further litigation cases.
The RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) began studying asbestos litigation in the early 1980s. They found that from the early 70s through to 2002, approximately 730,000 people have filed compensation claims for asbestos-related injuries. This has cost insurers in excess of $70bn and put close to 75 companies out of business.
With many asbestos mines now closed, it may take years to rebuild the infrastructure and access required to start production. If Trumps intentions are to ramp up production, perhaps it would require a second term in office to implement. However, seeing as only 15 of the 42 preceding presidents managed this feat, the odds are, thankfully, stacked against him.