industrial love of asbestos and fear of yellow jerseys

by Vivian Diep in October 21st, 2022
black and white lung imaging

EPA’s Moves Against Asbestos, Again

Thu Oct 20

If you were to guess, would you say that the use of asbestos is legal in the U.S.? Most industries and people learned by the 1990s that asbestos is a dangerous mineral, leading to disease and cancer with any exposure. Then why is it still legal in places like the U.S., China, India, Russia, and Brazil — especially when 55 other countries, including the E.U, have already banned it?

In a nutshell, corporate interest has kept it on the table… and the roof, walls, ducts, and more. While the EPA and Congress have attempted bans and regulation in the past, companies were able to lobby and argue their way out of them. And, the only other power beyond the defeated EPA and Congress to protect workers is OSHA, which has something called the Star Program. This program was established to motivate plants to be model facilities so they could avoid random annual inspections.

In actuality, the Star Program has allowed plants, such as OxyChem's, to have fewer inspections scheduled in advance, giving managers months to ensure the plant was spotless. Former workers reported regularly seeing thick coatings of released asbestos on uniforms, ceilings, walls, and uniforms. And if inspectors did find problems, they didn’t issue citations. Some even call the program a ruse since members of the Star Program would not be kicked out for low commitment to safety.

But this April, the EPA seems to have broken from its demoralized state and has proposed an asbestos ban for the first time in 30 years. Unsurprisingly, industry is gathering their same arguments with the backing of 12 Republican U.S. attorney generals and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It may be months before the ban is finalized, but the EPA is busy elsewhere, too. They’re now being applauded for finally stepping up and calling out state regulators for environmental injustices such as the “cancer alley” of Louisiana. This is hopefully just the start given the recent launch of the Office of Environmental Injustice and External Civil Rights.


A Yellow Sports Shirt Could Be Deadly in Brazil

Brazilians buying a yellow football (soccer) shirt are now also buying a symbol of support for far-right President Bolsonaro. That's risky because people are getting killed for their political leanings. It started in 2014 when the shirt was used in street protests against the left-wing government. In 2018, Bolsonaro and his supporters used the shirt at rallies because the colors matched the flag. Now, the shirt has been abandoned even by footballers themselves despite Nike's campaigns from ads claiming the shirt represents all Brazilians to restrictions against modifying the shirts to carry religious or political symbols. The blue (away games) shirt, however, sold out in hours.

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How the Black Death Changed Us

The pandemic is over but what has it done to us? To answer that, we might consider past pandemics such as the Black Death, which killed 30-50% of the population. Scientists looked at over 500 DNA samples from those who died prior to the Black Death, those who died from it, and those who survived it to see the genetic differences that influenced survival. In fact, they found four. When these genes were protective against the Black Death, however, it also increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis. This discovery is one of the strongest examples available of how a single pathogen can influence the evolution of the human immune system.

>> Read More

🎬 Action of the Week

Learn more about the EPA’s proposed ban and history of regulation and their latest letter to the Louisiana state regulators, prompted by ProPublica’s investigative journalism.

This Week's Sources

  • ProPublica: U.S. Asbestos Problem 1 day old | 30 minutes long
  • ProPublica: EPA Letter on Cancer Alley 2 days old | 8 minutes long
  • EPA: Launch of New Office 27 days old | 9 minutes long
  • Dangers of Asbestos 2 days old | 3 minutes long

ASCII-ing About the News

      Art by Riitta 
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These blue coveralls are perfect for me! 
 Yeah, but isn’t that blue just a bit too left wing? 
 Art Credit: Riitta Rasimus, ASCII Art Archive

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