Trump works for the people. Trump is making America safe again. This is a fact that he repeats often and loudly. His base, both MAGA and Qanon also repeat this as a fact. And so because it’s been repeated ad nauseam must be true. But, is it? Because, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Or as Bansky will have it, “if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes politics“.
This post will be the first of a series covering a few topics outside of politics. But topics that, nonetheless, has a few of us wondering what is truly going on with the world, and who is making those decisions on our behalf.
The topics that are going to be covered in the series (not necessarily in that order) are as follows:
The asbestos conundrum
Trump loves Asbestos. His love-affair with the deadly minerals dates back, at least, to 1997. That year he published a book called “The Art of the Comeback“. In it, he claimed that asbestos was “100% safe” (once applied) and that the movement against asbestos was a mob-led conspiracy:
I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relentedSource: Donald Trump – “The art of the comeback”.
In 2005, Trump’s testimony was entered before Congress regarding the use of asbestos in his Trump’s Towers. Here is what he had to say:
Trump is actually correct when he said that asbestos is a very good fireproofing material.
But what exactly is asbestos?
Asbestos is the general term used to refer to six naturally occurring silicate minerals. They are composed of long and thin fibrous crystals. Each fiber being composed of many microscopic ‘fibrils’ that can be released into the atmosphere by abrasion and other processes.
Archaeological studies have found evidence of asbestos being used as far back as the Stone Age to strengthen ceramic pots, but large-scale mining began at the end of the 19th century when manufacturers and builders began using asbestos for its desirable physical properties.
Asbestos was widely used during the 20th century until the 1970s when public recognition of the health hazards of asbestos dust led to its outlawing in mainstream construction and fireproofing in most countries. A total of 66 nations have banned asbestos as of March 2019, including all 28 countries of the European Union*. An additional 10 nations are placing restrictions on its use.
In the US, some restrictions were put on the use asbestos between 1973 and 1991.
The reason for the ban of asbestos is that it is a health hazard both for animals and humans. This occurs when microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed. They then become trapped in the body’s respiratory or digestive tract. This can cause a variety of cancerous and non-cancerous diseases, namely:
Cancers caused by asbestos exposure include:
Mesothelioma: This is a rare and incurable cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs or abdomen.
Lung Cancer: Asbestos-related lung cancer accounts for approximately 4% of all lung cancer cases.
Ovarian cancer: The International Agency for Research on Cancer confirmed that asbestos causes ovarian cancer in 2012.
Laryngeal Cancer: In 2006, the National Institutes of Health confirmed that asbestos causes laryngeal cancer.Source: Asbestos.com
Noncancerous conditions caused by asbestos include:
Asbestosis: Inflammation and scarring of lung tissue, which prevents the lungs from expanding and relaxing normally.
Pleural plaques: Areas of fibrous thickening of the lining around the lungs — the most common sign of asbestos exposure.
Pleural Effusion: Buildup of fluid around the lungs that causes difficulty breathing.
Diffuse Pleural Thickening: Extensive scarring that thickens the pleural lining of the lungs, causing chest pain and breathing issues.
Pleurisy: Severe inflammation of the pleural lining, also known as pleuritic pain.
Atelectasis: Inflammation and scarring that cause the pleural lining to fold in on itself, causing the lungs to underinflate.Source: Asbestos.com
At least 100,000 people a year are thought to die from diseases related to asbestos exposure.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund estimates that asbestos-related diseases kill 10 000 to 15 000 Americans each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 2,500 Americans die from mesothelioma every year
Nowadays there are a variety of fireproof materials. Some more efficient than others. Here are a few examples:
So if asbestos is so dangerous and there are plenty of other alternatives in the construction industry, why does Trump want to bring back asbestos? The answer is simple: Russia.
In accordance with the law, on December 19, 2016, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a list of 10 chemicals it would evaluate to comply with the Lautenberg Act. The list included asbestos.
In early 2018, EPA released a document with some FAQ regarding the proposed asbestos rule. The ambiguously worded document left a lot unsaid.
By May 2018, it was clear that Top officials at EPA pushed through a measure to review applications for using asbestos in consumer products, and did so over the objections of E.P.A.’s in-house scientists and lawyers, according to internal agency emails.
EPA’s proposed new rule came about on 11th June of 2018. The new rule is known in EPA jargon as a Significant New Use Rule, or SNUR. This is a somewhat confusing name because it does not apply to new uses of asbestos. Instead, the rule applies to pre-1989 uses of asbestos that are currently legal, but which no one happens to be using today. It states that if companies want to start re-using asbestos in certain ways, they will have to seek EPA approval first. The EPA identified 15 product categories of these older-but-previously-developed uses that would be subject to the review process, including vinyl-asbestos floor tile, roof and non-roof coatings, high-grade electrical paper, etc.
The EPA’s new risk assessment excludes cancer caused by a substance being aerated, getting into water, etc.
Within days of EPA’s proposed new rule, on 25th June 2018, Uralasbest, one of the world’s largest producers and sellers of asbestos had taken to adorn its pallets with a seal of Trump’s face, along with the words “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States“.
One of the main mineral types that Uralasbest deals with is Chrysolite. Chrysolite is a form of asbestos considered to be a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The World Health Organization also made an assessment of Chrysotile asbestos as a major public health concern that causes cancer in humans. Chrysotile has been recommended for inclusion in the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent, an international treaty that restricts the global trade in hazardous materials
The post thanks Trump for supporting the then head of EPA Scott Pruitt. Pruitt had no choice but to resign after a number of ethical and corruption scandals from his administration came to light. In his resignation letter, Pruitt wrote:
My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service.Source: Scott Pruitt resignation letter
Trump had repeatedly defended Pruitt following a multitude of ethics scandals. He announced Pruitt’s departure on Twitter and said Pruitt had done an “outstanding job”.
It is clear that there is no safe amount of asbestos. Just as clear as that there are many other non-hazardous alternatives, and plenty more coming into the market everyday. So in his choice to bring back the deadly mineral, one can only wonder whose interests Trump has at heart.
*27 countries since UK’s Brexit. UK also has a ban on asbestos.