The Definition of Asbestos - A Manufactured Defense to Avoid Regulation and Victim Compensation

Main Article Content

Triet H Tran David S Egilman, MD, MPH Tess Bird, MSc, DPhil Kate Clancy


Background: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first identified asbestos as a regulated workplace hazard in 1971. In the half century since, OSHA has fully rescinded only one of its hundreds of regulations, one that happened to regulate a form of asbestos found as an accessory mineral in cosmetic talc. This extremely rare action grew out of a 20-year campaign by Talc Mining and Manufacturing Companies (TM&MCs) to redefine some of the asbestos routinely found in talc as “non-asbestos” to keep talc out of the regulation. Under this new definition, at least 50% of the products sold as asbestos became “non-asbestos.”

Methods: We used systematic search techniques and grounded theory to review published studies, government records, corporate documents and public statements.

Results: Current asbestos regulations and test methods rely heavily on asbestos geologic definition which determine the majority of asbestos fibers as “non-asbestos.” In essence, this geologic definition defined some asbestos out of existence. However, asbestos regulations should be driven by the health effects of asbestos.

Conclusions: TM&MCs funded experts and lobbied OSHA to promote an overly restrictive definition of asbestos and to support inadequate test methods in place of more effective procedures. These companies subsequently relied on these same restrictive definitions and inadequate tests to falsely claim that their cosmetic talcs are free of asbestos. Replacing the restrictive geologic definition of asbestos with a health definition is needed to protect the public from the well-known dangers of asbestos.

Keywords: regulation, asbestos, asbestiform, non-asbestiform, talc, cancer

Article Details

How to Cite
TRAN, Triet H et al. The Definition of Asbestos - A Manufactured Defense to Avoid Regulation and Victim Compensation. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 6, june 2022. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 apr. 2024. doi:
Research Articles


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