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Lawmaker against loosening restrictions

August 20, 2018

HUNTINGTON — As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers loosening restrictions around the use of asbestos, it might fall to the states and even private companies to counteract those measures.

Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Ca-bell, a physician and member of the West Virginia House of Delegates Health and Human Resources Committee, said he would not be in favor of loosening any restrictions around asbestos and said he couldn’t imagine anyone choosing to use the substance anymore.

“There is no question it has a lot of health risks, so to lesson any requirements to make a building safe doesn’t seem to be in the interest of public health,” Rohrbach said.

In West Virginia, state code requires anyone who comes in contact with asbestos be specially trained to do so.

The code declares asbestos a dangerous toxic substance and harmful to the citizens of the state, so to ensure protection of the citizens of the state, anyone who comes in contact with asbestos through abatement, removal, enclosure or encapsulation must be trained and licensed to deal with the substance.

West Virginia is considered a top state for asbestos-related lawsuits, especially as other states pass tougher filing limits, according to asbestos, com, a Mesothelioma Center project.

Between 1998 and 2000, West Virginia and four other states accounted for two-thirds of all U.S. asbestos case filings. As of 2006, the state processed an estimated 33,000 asbestos claims and the state has developed a reputation for having plaintiff-friendly courts and juries. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals even has a special panel to handle mass litigation cases such as asbestos personal injury lawsuits.

West Virginia law allows for different types of liability, which generally favor the plaintiff, and it also allows for punitive damages, according to asbestos.com.

The United States is one of the only world powers to not have a ban on the substance. Iceland was the first to ban it in 1983, with Canada being the latest country to commit to a total ban in 2016.

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