Litigation related to asbestos injuries and property damages has been claimed to be the longest-running mass tort in U.S. history. Since asbestos-related disease has been identified by the medical profession in the late 1920s, workers' compensation cases were filed and resolved in secrecy, with a flood of litigation starting in the United States in the 1970s, and culminating in the 1980s and 1990s.
A massive multi-district litigation (MDL) complex filing has remained pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for over 20 years. As many of the scarring-related injury cases have been resolved, asbestos litigation continues to be hard-fought among the litigants, mainly in individually brought cases for terminal cases of asbestosis and cancers.
According to the Environmental Working Group Action Fund (EWG), 10,000 people die each year from asbestos-caused diseases in the United States, including one out of every 125 American men who die over the age of 50. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no general ban on the use of asbestos. However, asbestos was one of the first hazardous air pollutants regulated under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act of 1970, and many applications have been forbidden by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
According to a September 2004 report by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, asbestos is still a hazard for 1.3 million US workers in the construction industry and for workers involved in the maintenance of buildings and equipment. A Senate subcommittee of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee heard testimony on July 31, 2001, regarding the health effects of asbestos. Members of the public, doctors, and scientists called for the United States to join other countries in a ban on the product. In 2010, Washington State passed a ban on hazardous materials in automotive brakes, phasing out asbestos in vehicle brakes, starting in 2014.
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