One of the most lethal chemicals for workers is back at U.S. factories courtesy of Donald Trump's government.
A Fast Company report says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized a new rule that will allow the manufacture of products containing chemicals in specific cases. Asbestos can be used for adhesives, sealants and pipe wraps under the new parameters. Companies must get EPA approval before importing the material or starting production.
Asbestos has been banned in several countries in the 1970s because studies confirmed that it causes lung cancer among other diseases. It was a product widely used in construction, and it is believed that between 15 and 25 thousand people die annually because of the chemical.
In the United States, it is not entirely forbidden, only regulated. Asbestos is imported from Russia and Brazil.
In June, the Russian mining company Uralasbest, the largest exporter of the chemical, shared a photo of an asbestos shipment with Trump's image on a stamp. It is also known that the president criticized the regulation of asbestos in his book Art of the Deal. The president said it was a mafia ploy and said it was "100 percent safe when applied.
Trump revealed "the truth" about asbestos in a book published in 1997 under the title "Trump: The Art of the Comeback:
"I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mafia because it was often the mafia-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. The politicians were put under much pressure, and as usual, the politicians gave in. Millions of trucks of this incredible fireproof material were taken to special "dumping sites" and asbestos was replaced by materials that were supposedly safe but could not "hold a candle" to asbestos, to limit the ravages of fire.
So: gentlemen, you can see what you think of this character, for dedicating himself to a task as vital as it is essential, and in which, despite all the precautions taken, his workers are still subject to a severe risk, especially with regard to mesothelioma, so late outcrop, and for which it will have sufficed minimum doses of occupational exposure.
Some commentator, with obvious irony, dropped the observation that Mr. Trump must have known very well what he was talking about, given his excellent relations with these companies of uncertain affinities.
When Trump stated, apparently referring to all kinds of asbestos use, including asbestos slurry, projected on surfaces, to act as a flame retardant, saying of him that "it is one hundred percent safe once applied", it was certainly not the first time that he had established some relationship with the ore, nor with transgressor contractors and with unsafe working conditions.
Construction workers, Polish emigrants, denounced to the New York Times that in the construction of the "Trump Tower" (the headquarters of their businesses), they often worked asphyxiated in the middle of a cloud of asbestos dust, and without protective equipment.
The employer of these workers - the undocumented Polish immigrants not registered as wage earners - did so at only four or five dollars an hour, and even less sometimes, and in any case far below the emoluments of a unionized worker working in the same place.
We see, therefore, that his manifest hostility towards undocumented migrants, rather than an ultraconservative and reactionary ideological coherence, may have been due to much more personal motives of concern, because of those published statements, because, when it comes to taking advantage indirectly of the precarious situation of those workers, in an illegal position, well that had no remedy whatsoever.
But Trump, moreover, who had attributed to the mafia the initiative and management of the campaign in favor of homelessness, shows, at the same time, close links with the finances of precisely that same mafia, including also his own lawyer, Roy Cohn, and also to the company hired to build the "Tramp Tower", with such "exemplary" ethical behavior, both economically and in relation to the handling of asbestos to be installed, as we have just narrated.
David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter, wrote of him that "No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump's record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other thieves," an assertion from which one might deduce that, although attenuated, other candidates might also exhibit similar ties.
Trump believes that companies that have exposed their employees, customers, and/or third parties to the effects of asbestos should not be held liable, and are required by the courts, to establish trust funds for those who are obligated to compensate victims of mesothelioma or other serious diseases, linked to asbestos exposure, or to make settlements, or to be obligated in court, to pay compensation to patients or their families.
As a fervent supporter of a broad scheme of legislative modifications, known in the United States as "civil liability reform," he plans to limit the amount of money that victims of diseases resulting from the industrial use of asbestos can receive, for concepts such as compensation for their medical expenses, for the loss of their income, or for other costs, such as those arising from having to go through a whole battery of tests, until they have reached the true and definitive diagnosis.
In the United States there is no real general ban on the use of asbestos, and failing that, what has existed until now has been a sacrosanct fear on the part of its businessmen of the deterrent compensation they have been forced to pay when their companies have been convicted in asbestos litigation.
If this break disappears, nothing will oppose a retreat into past situations in which the use of asbestos enjoyed practical impunity, because what is beyond doubt is that under the chairmanship of Donald Trump this real general ban, to which we alluded earlier, will never be produced.