Allegheny Discusses New Asbestos Laws
The Pittsburgh area is certainly a region that has been touched by asbestos. Long a steel-producing mecca, Allegheny County has seen its share of cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, largely because the toxic mineral was used in a variety of products that were found in steel mills and other busy industrial sites.
Asbestos was determined to be a good insulator and it was inexpensive, which made it ideal for a number of uses in high-temperature settings.
Now, after more than 40 years of tough regulations regarding continued use of the toxin, the EPA has declared that they could potentially allow for new uses of the killer mineral.
That’s prompted many residents of Allegheny County to stand up and declare their dismay with such laws.
In a recent interview with WESA-FM radio, Shannon Sandberg, manager of asbestos control for the Allegheny County Health Department, explained that the county does not have the authority to block the use of asbestos materials in new construction.
“We only regulate if it’s disturbed when there’s a future demolition or renovation project,” Sandberg said. “Even if it was built yesterday and going to be disturbed today, our regulations require the content to be tested for whether or not it contains asbestos.”
But the EPA’s recently-enstated Significant New Use Rule allows asbestos products to be approved by the government on a case-by-case basis and the agency will no longer consider risks from “legacy” uses of the toxin. In other words, the EPA “no longer considers the dangers posed by the use and disposal of asbestos products already installed in millions of buildings when approving new uses,” Sandberg explained to the listening audience.
That’s bad news for Allegheny County. According to a 2015 report by the Environmental Welfare Group Action Fund, the county already ranks quite high in deaths due to asbestos exposure. At 8.6 deaths per 100,000 people, Allegheny County demonstrates rates that are nearly twice the national average of 4.9.
Hence, the health department now believes that its best chance to curb such numbers and keep them from growing is to focus on outreach.
“Pennsylvania’s one of the worst states in the country for asbestos mortality,” said Jim Kelly, deputy director of environmental health.
“Allegheny County is one of the worst in the state. So, it’s a real problem here because of the age of our building stock.”
He and Sandberg hope they can get the word out about the continued dangers of using asbestos, despite the fact that the current administration thinks the mineral does not present a danger to human health.
Sadly, many asbestos victims in Allegheny County recognize that Trumps opinion is far from the truth, having seen how diseases like mesothelioma can quickly destroy a once-healthy human being.