Trump’s Dangerous Views on Asbestos

Donald Trump will easily go down as one of the most polarizing Presidents in the history of U.S. politics. In the eight months since he has held the Oval Office his administration has been plagued with accusations of corruption and disorganization, and the ‘talk first, facts later’ attitude he had on the campaign trail has morphed into a reckless style of legislative governance that is both unpredictable and often, misinformed.

Amongst the many outrageous claims Donald Trump has made over the years, are a number of dangerously ignorant comments about asbestos.

Donald Trump’s pro-asbestos sentiment can be traced all the way back to 1997 and his The Art of the Comeback book, in which he claimed he believed the anti-asbestos movement was rigged by the mob.
Within the pages he also calls an anti-asbestos law “stupid” and inaccurately claims asbestos is “…100 percent safe, once applied.”

Trump also supported the 9/11 asbestos conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory suggests that the Twin Towers would never have collapsed if asbestos had been used for the entire structure, rather than just the first forty floors. As recently as 2012, Trump was lending the conspiracy theory credence, tweeting “If we didn’t remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down.”

Considering many 9/11 first responders have suffered respiratory complications due to the clouds of toxic asbestos dust which lingered over downtown New York City, these comments seem crass and insensitive. But many experts believe it is not just first responders who were at risk while the city was engulfed in the hazardous fumes, 90,000 everyday citizens showed up to assist with the search for survivors amongst the burning rubble of the twin towers. These people also inhaled the noxious fumes. Some experts have estimated that the death toll from 9/11 will rise into the millions over the next few decades, as symptoms related to the effects of exposure to asbestos and other poisonous chemicals begin to manifest in the population.

Trump has also been a proponent of “safe asbestos” or the chrysotile-defense. Which argues that it is the amphibole-containing products which are dangerous. This claim is widely disputed by health and medical professionals, as 95% of the products used in the United States historically were mostly chrysotile.

Countless scientific studies have linked the substance with various forms of cancer, a 2005 study from Yale University’s School of Medicine even linked asbestos with colon cancer. The World Health Organization has recognized the risks of asbestos for decades, stating “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).” The carcinogen has been banned in over 50 countries.

Asbestos can be both inhaled and ingested, and the material has been used for everything over the years, resulting in citizens gulping down microscopic fibers in their water, as it ran through asbestos cement pipes. Or breathing it while they slept thanks to asbestos based ceiling insulation.

Court evidence has revealed that multiple companies contributed to a cover-up of the dangers of asbestos as early as 1929. A chilling example includes the largest manufacturer of asbestos based products in the USA, Johns Manville and company president Lewis H. Brown. Brown was made aware of the chilling effects of asbestos on his workers, by local physicians as early as 1949. However, Johns Manville continued to produce products containing asbestos up until the early 1980’s. The EPA did not classify asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant until 1971.

Donald Trump’s ill-informed views are a slap in the face for those sufferers of mesothelioma and other cancers caused by asbestos, who are now facing renewed concern about the toxic substance and the ban on its use in the USA. Thanks to a combination of Trump’s pick for the role of director of the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt and the proposed budget cuts to the Agency’s funding.

Pruitt has been accused of a non-committal stance toward the banning of the product. When pressed for answers he’s cited the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act as a reason to spend three years reinvestigating the risks that asbestos may pose. In response to senators’ questions regarding his position, Pruitt suggested that “prejudging the outcome of that risk evaluation process would not be appropriate.” He’s also been accused of approving other toxic products with little regulation by several environmental groups, and members of the democratic party referring to his appointment as a disaster.

In the United States, asbestos litigation is the longest and most expensive mass tort in all of US legal history, involving over 8000 defendants and costing millions in legal fees. Analysts expect costs in the USA alone to reach over $200 billion. The lengthy proceedings and costs involved with Asbestos proceedings in the USA several firms dedicated to providing legal support to those affected like The Ledger Law Firm who provide legal advice to claimants and offer fee-free representation to those whose hearings are unsuccessful.

Today about 125 million people worldwide are still exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and occupational exposure to the carcinogen has been responsible for over 107,000 deaths. New cases of mesothelioma are constantly diagnosed each year, with over a thousand cases diagnosed in 2015 across America, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Safe asbestos may be an ‘alternative’ fact that Trump supports. But the risks and the science behind the dangers are clear, and to grave to be ignored in the name of profit, or convenience.

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