Environmental Health and Risk Management for Asbestos


Framework Environmental Health and Risk Management for Asbestos

Stakeholder analysis: Asbestos exposure

Stakeholder analysis: From Identifying stakeholders (2009)

The affected: People who have been exposed to asbestos

Characteristics: While anyone can be exposed to asbestos, some of the most common professions suffering the dangerous consequences of long-term exposure are shipbuilders, individuals employed in the construction industry, and other skilled and unskilled workers (Asbestos exposure and cancer risk, 2009, The National Cancer Institute). Residents and workers in buildings with asbestos can also be exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers.

Workers are often disabled with lung ailments or cancers and are faced with the need to provide for their families. Additionally, they often come from professions that are particularly hard-hit by the current recession

Main needs and wishes, interests, motives, attitudes: Many of these workers seek legal redress through the court system for their injuries. As well as a desire for compensation, they may also feel as if their health concerns were not properly regarded by society as well as by their employers. Also, because they are often blue-collar workers, despite the fact that many worked in skilled trades, they may also feel as if their concerns are minimized.

Potential strengths and weaknesses, what could the group contribute or withhold: These workers may be more focused on personal compensation and redressing the wrongs of the past than upon improving conditions for workers in the future, in contrast to consumer action groups. But they may be profoundly sympathetic to the public, given the hard nature of their previous employment and the severity of their illnesses.

The linkages indicating main conflicts of interests, patterns of cooperation, dependency: Their most obvious point of conflict are with industries who allowed workers to be exposed to asbestos and who are trying to avoid costly settlements, as well as with industries that continue to use asbestos and minimize the public’s perception of the harms of this substance. This group can find alliances with consumer protection groups wishing to ban asbestos outright, although worker’s interest groups are less future-focused and may be less interested in banning the substance from ordinary consumer products such as crayons as opposed to obtaining personal damage settlements (Asbestos exposure and cancer risk, 2009, The National Cancer Institute).

Active: Businesses who have used or do use asbestos in their work

Characteristics: These businesses represent a diverse range of industries, from construction to shipbuilding to the automotive and textile industries

Main problems: Possible litigation from individuals suffering lung ailments due to asbestos exposure; the costs of changing construction materials, especially during an economic downturn.

Main needs and wishes, interests, motives, attitudes: Wish to limit liability and payments to affected former workers and also limit the costs of using new materials. Both businesses that used as well as businesses that do use asbestos have an interest in limiting asbestos bans, as this might be used as evidence to support the validity of further litigation against the industry. At present, according to the American Bar Association (ABA): “It is hard to see or hear the word ‘Asbestos’ without the word ‘Crisis’. In this context, numbers abound. $145 Billion proposed for a federal trust fund, 600,000 lawsuits filed, 10 to 20 million people exposed in industrial settings, 30,000 to 50,000 new lawsuits filed a year and scores of bankruptcies. A single case may have thousands of plaintiffs and hundreds of defendants with a settlement value of $600,000,000.00” (Model asbestos case management order, 2005, ABA, p. 15).

Potential strengths and weaknesses, what could the group contribute or withhold: These businesses seem unsympathetic to the public, who are alarmed by the dangerous uses of asbestos in everyday life situations and are angry at companies for ignoring the risk. Industries may try to promote new safety measures to forestall likelihood of further lawsuits. These industries have tried (and failed) on numerous occasions to lobby Congress to pass laws to limit damages awarded to plaintiffs in asbestos-related suits in exchange for ‘trust funds’ that would give smaller compensations to victims and their family (Asbestos legislation, 2009, Asbestos news).

The linkages indicating main conflicts of interests, patterns of cooperation, dependency: While undeniably in conflict with groups wishing for greater limitations on the use of asbestos, these companies can work with regulators to create more stringent safety procedures for workers who do come into contact with the material

Beneficiaries: Consumer protection groups trying to limit use of asbestos and protect future workers

Characteristics: Diverse, spanning from government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to other watchdog groups

Main problems: Diffuse interests and points-of-view — as an arm of the federal government, the EPA may hesitate to interfere with other branches with divergent interests like the Commerce Department, while consumer action groups may disagree as to the most important aspects of anti-asbestos policies to emphasize

Main needs and wishes, interests, motives, attitudes: A desire to prevent future harm done to the public’s health

Potential strengths and weaknesses, what could the group contribute or withhold: As well as opposition from powerful corporate lobbying groups and the U.S. Congress, the court system has limited the ability of asbestos to be regulated as a hazardous substance as when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned an outright ban on asbestos (Asbestos ban and phase out asbestos ban, 2009, EPA).

The linkages indicating main conflicts of interests, patterns of cooperation, dependency: These groups ‘depend’ on affected victims to tell their stories and put a human face on the suffering caused by asbestos, but their focus is less on the individual and more upon prohibiting future hazardous exposure, like lobbying for replacement of asbestos in schools and in consumer products. This places them in direct conflict with powerful industry and congressional actors.

Works Cited

Asbestos ban and phase out asbestos ban. (2009). EPA. Retrieved May 12, 2009


Asbestos exposure and cancer risk. (2009). The National Cancer Institute. Retrieved May 12,

2009 at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/asbestos

Asbestos legislation. (2009). Asbestos news. Retrieved May 12, 2009 at http://www.asbestosnews.com/html/asbestos-legislation.html

Identifying stakeholders. (2009). MIT Retrieved May 12, 2009 at http://web.mit.edu/urbanupgrading/upgrading/issues-tools/tools/Ident-stakeholders.html

Model asbestos pre-trial case management order. (2005). American Bar Association (ABA).

Retrieved May 12, 2009 at www.abanet.org/leadership/2005/annual/dailyjournal/103.doc

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