The stunning truth about asbestos use in the U.S.

JUDY WOODRUFF: If you have followed any numberof stories about asbestos and the key role with cancer, fatalities and health problems over theyears, you might think it’s been banned from use in the United Commonwealth. Well, that’s not the case. It is true that asbestos is not used in buildingmaterials the action it once was. But it still is found in some household products, and some public health professionals worry about its continued apply. Miles O’Brien is back with that story, andwhy the regulation and oversight of it remains a public health concern. It’s for our weekly segment on the LeadingEdge of science, engineering and health. MILES O’BRIEN: For 15 times, Linda Reinsteinhas pounded the marble halls of power in Washington, a foot soldier in a long environmental battlethat you might think was over.LINDA REINSTEIN, Asbestos Disease AwarenessOrganization: We deserve to have our air free of contaminants, breath, clay and liquid. And without an asbestos proscribe on all products, we remain in peril. MILES O’BRIEN: Asbestos, naturally occurringmineral fibers the hell is sturdy, fire-resistant and most carcinogenic. Breathing them can trigger dangerous cancers. There is no debate about that. But more than 50 years after a landmark studyconfirmed this, asbestos is a poster child for a destroy regulatory process. It is still used by U.S. manufacture, presentin 30 million dwellings, and is a contaminant in consumer products, including children’stoys and makeup. Wife: The FDA is now warning mothers to throwout three makes from Claire’s after new measures acquired they contained asbestos. MILES O’BRIEN: Officially, asbestos killsnearly 3,000 Americans every year, but these deaths are under-reported. Environmental and health preaches believethe actual toll is much higher. LINDA REINSTEIN: I urge you to expeditiouslyand exhaustively evaluate the risk, and move to fully banning asbestos without any exemptions.MILES O’BRIEN: In 2006, Linda Reinstein’shusband, Alan, died of mesothelioma, cancer of the thin coating of tissue that reports ourinternal organs, a fatal ailment began almost entirely by asbestos. Alan Reinstein was exposed to asbestos ata shipyard and while doing residence restorations. His widow is propagandizing newly introduced legislationto ordain an outright boycott on asbestos. Do you feel like you have made progress? LINDA REINSTEIN: Progress is glacially gradual. I have lay so many parties I have knownand affection, including my husband. WOMAN: You OK? PAUL ZYGIELBAUM, Cancer Patient: Yes. I’m just loopy from the stimulants. MILES O’BRIEN: Paul Zygielbaum is one of thosestories behind the gruesome lists. When we first fulfilled him in December of 2017, he was in the midst of a potent chemotherapy dose 14 years after he was diagnosed withmesothelioma. PAUL ZYGIELBAUM: I’m just said he hopes that I canget back to a better physical plight, to where I can do the things I just wanted to do. And I have no idea whether that’s going tohappen or not, so that is kind of frustrating. MILES O’BRIEN: This is just one of more than5 0 rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy he endured.A onetime technologist for the space, computerand practicality manufactures, he concludes he was exposed to asbestos at a power plant. PAUL ZYGIELBAUM: This is a carcinogen. It’s deadly. It’s insidious, because a disease doesn’tshow up for 15 to 50 years following exposure. And it’s like there’s a blind see being turnedto that, where that doesn’t happen with many other carcinogens. MILES O’BRIEN: Why do you think that is? PAUL ZYGIELBAUM: I think there’s decades ofindustry lobbying behind it. MILES O’BRIEN: But scientists see a lot ofneed for urgency. Each time they look at asbestos under anelectron microscope, they are reminded of the risks. Brenda Buck is a medical geologist at theUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas. BRENDA BUCK, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: This little fiber coming off here is quite long and very thin, which is very typicalof asbestos fibers. It’s strong. It’s sturdy. It’s fireproof. MILES O’BRIEN: Those qualities made theman appealing choice in hundreds of household products. At one time, asbestos was sold as a modernmarvel. Girl: Ooh, it is attractive.MAN: Yes, and it’ll stay that course extremely. That’s what I like about it. MILES O’BRIEN: But people who worked aroundit in shipyards plants and pits, started get sick, most infamously in Libby, Montana, where asbestos dust from a mine has killed 10 % of the population. BRENDA BUCK: They have these immense propertiesthat we can use in cloths, but those very same assets is why they’re so hazardousin the human body. They don’t break down. When you breath them in, they’re pretty muchgoing to stick with you for your lifetime. MILES O’BRIEN: The human immune structure response? Attack the stubborn fiber. But, eventually, this backfires, creatingdamage, illness and eventually demise from cancer and a host of other calamities. BRENDA BUCK: So, the government started toregulate occupational shows. They started at jolly high levels.And as more and more science was conducted, we began to realize that we needed lower and lower exposures to prevent disease. MILES O’BRIEN: In the 1980 s, class acrossthe country scrambled to remove asbestos insularity from tubes and boilers. Then, in 1989, the EPA questioned a ban on themanufacturing, importation, processing and sale of makes containing asbestos. But the chemical industry successfully suedto overrule it in 1991. So, in 2016, Congress and the Obama administrationenacted an updated Toxic Substances Control Act. The opinion? Give the EPA more teeth to regulate asbestosand other hazardous chemicals that remain in the environment. But the marching toward a restriction came back a grindinghalt with the election of Donald Trump. In 2005, speaking as a real estate developer, he told a Senate committee this: DONALD TRUMP, President of the United District: A bunch of beings in my manufacture repute asbestos is the greatest fireproofing cloth ever– ever made.MILES O’BRIEN: Trump’s nominee in chargeof chemical safety at the EPA is Nancy Beck, who came straight-shooting from a high-level post atthe largest chemical lobbying house in the country, the American Chemistry Council. In a statement posted, the ACC disclaims Beck has aconflict of interest, and says that claims that she does “unfairly disregard her careerexperiences and decades of undertaking as the following objectives and most respected scientist.” But, under her leader, the EPA is refusingto even study, much less regulate, the bequest asbestos that is all around us. The EPA says it is committed to protectingthe public from asbestos shows. And it says, the statute affords discretionto the administrator to focus on the uses that are of greatest concern. LINDA REINSTEIN: It’s a David-and-Goliathbattle. And we are the small person trying to movebig elevations. There’s huge money that flows. MILES O’BRIEN: And so does the asbestos.The United Commonwealth has imported more than 6,000 tons of asbestos since 2011, almost all of it used by the chlor-alkali industry to makechlorine. It mainly comes from Brazil, but, in 2017, that country banned the mineral, as have more than 60 other nations. As Brazil jazzs down yield, asbestosimports will increasingly come from Russia, where some shipments are embossed with a sealof the president’s face, along with the words “Approved by Donald Trump, 45 th Presidentof the United States.” Meanwhile, in Southern Nevada, Brenda Buckand her peer medical geologist Rodney Metcalf have found even more troubling causefor concern about asbestos.MAN: It’s everywhere. Look at this, everywhere. MILES O’BRIEN: They have planned more thana million acres of naturally occurring asbestos now. The disclosure came after they discovered evidenceof unusually high rates of mesothelioma among women and children, a telltale sign of asbestosexposure that is environmental, rather than occupational. BRENDA BUCK: Even if the EPA banned all useof asbestos in the commonwealth, we still have it occurring in our grunges, and therefore, inour breeze. And parties are still being exposed to it justthrough these natural mechanisms. MILES O’BRIEN: The Occupational Safety andHealth Administration has set limits on asbestos use in the workplace. But scientists say there is no evidence thereis any safe level of show to asbestos, which is why Linda Reinstein obstructs pushingfor a total ban. LINDA REINSTEIN: Alan’s chair will remainempty forever, and my mettle will be broken, but I will engage on.PAUL ZYGIELBAUM: I’m optimistic about a changein position in Washington. I think it can happen. I don’t think we’re done yet. But I envision, eventually, we will win. MILES O’BRIEN: You’re an unlikely optimist. PAUL ZYGIELBAUM: That’s what impedes me going. MILES O’BRIEN: Paul Zygielbaum lost his 15 -yearbattle with mesothelioma on January 25. Asbestos will likely do thousands of otherAmerican lives before the year ends. The demises are sluggish and painful , not unlikethe regulatory response to this public health crisis. For the “PBS NewsHour, ” I’m Miles O’Brienin Santa Rosa, California ..

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