Here’s a despicable story for you.
The Seattle Pacific Hotel decided to save money renovating its lobby by using untrained workers to remove asbestos – and didn't tell the workers they would be inhaling asbestos, which is essentially a death sentence. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries fined the hotel owners $355,000 saying "It's unconscionable that anyone would knowingly expose untrained and unprotected workers to asbestos. It's an extremely hazardous material that's notorious for causing cancer and other serious health issues.”
Yes, let’s talk about what’s in store for these workers.
Once inhaled, asbestos fibers are indestructible and continue to react within the lungs for a lifetime. Some will get asbestosis, an incurable and suffocating lung disease where scar tissue slowly replaces healthy tissue. Others will get mesothelioma, which causes a painful death within 4 to 18 months of diagnosis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 3,000 people still die annually from asbestosis or mesothelioma, and mesothelioma deaths are on the rise, increasing from 2,479 deaths in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015, thanks (in part, I’m guessing) to businesses like the Seattle Pacific Hotel. The CDC says:
[T]he annual number of malignant mesothelioma deaths remains substantial. Contrary to past projections, the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing. The continuing occurrence of mesothelioma deaths, particularly among younger populations, underscores the need for maintaining efforts to prevent exposure and for ongoing surveillance to monitor temporal trends.
Here’s the other problem. Unlike most of the industrialized world, the United States refuses to ban asbestos, save for a few items. For example, asbestos has never been banned in the manufacture, distribution, use or importation of items like clothing, vinyl floor tiles, cement pipes or common car parts (like automatic transmission components, clutch facings, friction materials, disk brake pads, drum brake linings, brake blocks and gaskets).
Whereas in 2016, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency had included asbestos as one of the first 10 chemicals it would have evaluated under the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, President Trump has said that asbestos is “safe,” anti-asbestos laws are “stupid” and the “anti-asbestos movement is tainted by organized crime.” He also once “offered a bewildering tweet saying: ‘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.’”
Forget Mar-a-Lago with its numerous health violations and disgraceful plastic caviar spoons. For his next fundraiser, Trump should consider the Seattle Pacific Hotel, which I’m sure would be happy to provide extra asbestos helpings. Just like they do in Kazakhstan. Served with some beautiful mother of pearl spoons.