From the blog

Federal Data Show Millions of American Workers Inhaling Asbestos

Published: June 10, 2015

For Immediate Release: June 10, 2015

Contact: Alex Formuzis, EWG Action Fund: 202.667.6982 or

Washington, D.C. – For decades, American workers have been breathing air contaminated with asbestos in excess of federal health limits, according to a new analysis of federal government air sampling data.

In a study published last month in the journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology researchers from Cardno ChemRisk, LLC, reported that tests of air samples conducted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration between 1984 and 2011 revealed sharply elevated levels of asbestos fibers in many American workplaces. The researchers found that workers in the construction, automotive, chemical and manufacturing sectors were at heightened risk for asbestos exposure.

 The OSHA workplace tests found air samples with as many as 175 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter — 875 times the agency’s limit for workplace exposure to asbestos, which is 0.2 fibers per cubic centimeter of air over eight hours.

 “[A]s of 2010, the OSHA asbestos sampling data indicated that exposures in certain industries (e.g., construction) still continue to exceed current occupational exposure guidelines,” the study said, “Therefore, exposures in excess of the OSHA regulatory limits may still be present in major industries such as construction and manufacturing and may present a public health challenge for those working in those industries.”

OSHA and other federal health and regulatory agencies agree that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. As the OSHA website puts it:

 “There is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber. Asbestos exposures as short in duration as a few days have caused mesothelioma in humans. Every occupational exposure to asbestos can cause injury or disease; every occupational exposure to asbestos contributes to the risk of getting an asbestos-related disease.”

“Through no fault of their own, millions of Americans went to work each day in order to provide for families — but at the cost of having to inhale dangerous levels of asbestos,” said Alex Formuzis, Vice President for Strategic Campaigns at EWG Action Fund“Meanwhile, corporations that have used asbestos, or knowingly purchased companies with asbestos liability, are spending millions lobbying for legislation that would deny justice to victims of asbestos disease, many of whom have worked over the years in these at-risk work sites.”

 The legislation in question is the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act (H.R. 526) introduced by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and championed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with backing by companies such as Honeywell, 3M, Allstate Insurance, and Nationwide Insurance, based on federal lobbying reports. The Farenthold bill would erect a series of legal hurdles that together could prevent asbestos victims from obtaining justice from companies that put their health and lives at risk from asbestos exposure in the workplace.

 The Farenthold bill would force public disclosure of sensitive personal information about asbestos victims seeking justice, including medical conditions, employment history, and possibly the last four digits of their social security numbers, to be compiled and made available online.

 “For workers exposed to and injured by asbestos on the job, the Farenthold bill would not only go a long way toward stymieing their efforts to secure justice, but would put them at risk of identity theft.” said Reade Wilson, staff attorney to EWG Action Fund.

 Although U.S. asbestos use has declined over the past several years, the Cardno ChemRisk report indicates that asbestos exposure is still a real and daily threat to many workers across the country. A new report by EWG Action Fund shows as many as 15,000 Americans are estimated to die every year from asbestos-related disease.

Over the past week, asbestos has made headlines in a number of communitiesacross the country. In one instance last March, a preschool outside of Washington, D.C. had to close after tests found asbestos dust on the floors.


 EWG Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that is a separate sister organization of the Environmental Working Group. The mission of EWG Action Fund is to protect health and the environment by educating the public and lobbying on a wide range of environmental issues. Donations to EWG Action Fund are not tax-deductible.

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