The Importance of Asbestos Regulations in Oregon

By now, most of us have learned that asbestos poses significant health risks to those who are exposed to it. Many people incorrectly believe that the use of asbestos has been completely banned in the United States - it has not. But while many Americans appreciate that asbestos can be dangerous, they really do not know how it is used and the times or places where there is a risk of exposure. That is where government regulation comes into play. 

Because we cannot always count on businesses to act in our best interest, we rely on the government to take appropriate steps to help protect us. When it comes to asbestos, there are rules and regulations at both the federal and state levels designed to do exactly that. In this article, we will discuss such rules and why it is so important to update and enforce them.

Who Is Involved in Asbestos Regulation?

At the federal level, there are multiple agencies, laws, and regulations that play a role in protecting people from asbestos. In a broad sense, Congress is responsible for passing laws. However, much of the work is done at the agency level, including the passage of regulations. Below are some key players.

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - The Toxic Substances Control Act required the EPA to take a number of steps to regulate asbestos. An example is the imposition of inspection requirements for school buildings. Many other laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, place responsibilities on the EPA that address asbestos. 
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) - OSHA creates workplace standards designed to protect workers who are exposed to asbestos.
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It performs research and makes recommendations aimed at preventing work-related illness and injury.
  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) - At the state level, the Oregon DEQ is responsible for protecting the environment and human health by regulating disposal, removal, and handling of asbestos.

The Importance of Regulations

Unfortunately, there have been many instances throughout U.S. history where worker safety was ignored, or at least placed second, to the interest of profits. Some companies continued to use asbestos in unsafe ways, even after learning of the dangers. In some cases, workers were not provided with adequate safety equipment and clothing. There have even been instances of companies hiding information on the dangers of asbestos. 

Therefore, it’s essential to have laws in place to protect workers. It is also important to monitor and update laws as new information becomes available and to enforce the laws that are passed. Without enforcement, many laws likely would not be followed.

Examples of Updates to Oregon’s Asbestos Laws

 In 2018, Oregon added additional rules to its asbestos requirements. We will discuss three of them. 

  1. Prior to demolition or renovation of a residential structure constructed before January 1, 2004, an asbestos survey must be conducted by an accredited asbestos inspector. This helps reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure. (There is an exception for owner DIY renovation). It is worth noting that an asbestos survey must be conducted by an accredited inspector on all demolition and renovation projects on commercial buildings, regardless of when the building was constructed.
  2. Non-friable asbestos must be packaged for disposal in the same manner as friable asbestos waste. This makes the site safer for workers and neighbors.
  3. Starting January 1, 2021, all testing on asbestos survey bulk samples must be completed by a laboratory in a nationally recognized testing or accreditation program.

By updating such laws, Oregon continues to take steps to protect workers, homeowners, and others from harm.

Call with Questions

If you’ve developed asbestosis, mesothelioma, or another health problem as the result of exposure to asbestos, you will likely have questions about your rights and how to proceed. The experienced Oregon lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield know asbestos law and will be happy to answer your questions. Please call us for a free consultation. We take pride in helping victims hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. In our opinion, it’s the best way to make society safer for everyone.


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