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Key Takeaways: Asbestos was first discovered in the early 1820s, and it became widely
used by the 1890s because of its durable, fireproof qualities. It was used primarily in
construction, either as insulation or as an actual building material. Cases of asbestosis, lung
cancer, and mesothelioma began being reported in the mid-twentieth century, and a bill
passed in 1970 sparked a widespread regulation of asbestos use. In 1989, the EPA banned
the use of asbestos in most building materials. However, there hasn’t been a complete ban on
all asbestos products in the United States.

Sheets of asbestos


Early Use of Asbestos


Asbestos was not widely utilized until the 1890s; then, its use sky-rocketed. It was used to
outfit pipes, supplement roofing materials, insulate houses and commercial buildings, and as
an insulator in the steel and industrial sectors.
In 1918, the first documented study of asbestos exposure was published in the American
Journal of Roentgenology; the study detailed effects visible on X-Rays of 15 patients that
had sustained exposure to asbestos.


By the 1930s, cases of asbestosis had been documented and researched. By the middle of the
decade, reports from the U.S. and U.K. detailed the relationship between asbestosis and lung
cancer development.


Epidemiological studies and patient reports continued in the following decades, as the
instance of lung cancers and asbestos exposure continued to increase. 1960 was a turning
point in establishing the link between asbestos exposure and disease: “a large series of case
reports was published involving the rare pleural tumor (mesothelioma) among 33 individuals
(22 males, 11 females). All but one of the reported cases had a common exposure to
crocidolite asbestos in a mining region of the NW Cape of South Africa,” (Lemen &
Landrigan).


After documenting 120 mesothelioma cases, scientist Chris Wagner submitted his research
to be considered by the 14th International Congress on Occupational Health in 1963, three
years after the South Africa epidemiological report.
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
After the passing of the OSH Act of 1970, asbestos regulation was catalyzed. There were a
multitude of regulations, partial bans, and restrictions placed on the size of asbestos fibers,
utilization in certain buildings, and exposure times.


In the following years, these bans were updated to become more stringent. In 1989, the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of asbestos in a multitude of
different construction materials, including tiling, roof shingles, clothing, gaskets, pipes,
cement pipes, and car parts (although this list is not exhaustive). This ban remains the most
impactful on regulation of asbestos use in industrial and construction materials.

Today’s Standing on an Asbestos Ban


Importantly, the EPA did not ban all asbestos use in 1989; there were some notable
exceptions to their list of products. Today, asbestos is present in approximately 30 million
American households, although not explicitly, like in building materials or insulation.
Rather, asbestos has been found in children’s toys, on makeup products, and occasionally in
tap water.
Excitingly, the EPA has taken steps to further regulate extant asbestos products in the United
States in 2024.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please call The Halpern Law
Firm at (800)-505-6000. We are here to help you navigate the legal process of filing a claim
to receive compensation for your cancer diagnosis. We help mesothelioma victims and their
families in Pennsylvania.

Sources:

EPA will pick up the pace of chemical regulations in 2024. (n.d.). Chemical & Engineering News.
Retrieved January 25, 2024, from
https://cen.acs.org/environment/persistent-pollutants/EPA-will-pick-up-the-pace-chemical-regul
ations-in-2024/102/i2

Lemen, R. A., & Landrigan, P. J. (2017). Toward an Asbestos Ban in the United States. International
Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(11), Article 11.
https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14111302

The stunning truth about asbestos use in the U.S. (2019, March 13). PBS NewsHour.
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/decades-after-proof-of-its-carcinogenic-properties-asbesto
s-still-surrounds-us


Written By Carina Filemyr

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Page Reviewed and Edited by
Dave Halpern, Mesothelioma Attorney

Dave Halpern is a Pennsylvania and New Jersey mesothelioma attorney with over 30 years of experience. He has investigated hundreds of cases and won numerous multimillion dollar settlements and verdicts for asbestos victims. Dave prides himself on working tirelessly to help his clients in their time of need. 

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