Like it or not, Donald Trump is the President of the United States and so his opinions about asbestos are very important and relevant. Like his opinions on many issues, his views run contrary to mainstream thought about asbestos as a dangerous product. Mr. Trump believed that banning and removing asbestos from buildings was a big mistake. He considered asbestos to be the best fire proofing substance available and called alternatives “junk”. He considered the asbestos removal industry to be a “mob” plot. One of his claims made in an October 17, 2012 Tweet, is that the World Trade Center would never have been destroyed, “if we didn’t remove [the] incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn’t work.” In fact asbestos was not removed from the World Trade Center but rather while it was being built asbestos use was banned in New York City so that the higher floors built later did not have asbestos. See our post on Asbestos and and the World Trade Center
In his 1997 book “The Art of the Comeback” Donald Trump wrote: “I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented. Millions of truckloads of this incredible fire-proofing material were taken to special “dump sites” and asbestos was replaced by materials that were supposedly safe but couldn’t hold a candle to asbestos in limiting the ravages of fire.”
The 58 storey Trump Towers on Fifth Avenue in New York City opened in 1983. Trump Towers was built by illegal workers paid $5 an hour off the books with no payment for overtime and terrible working conditions. The work began with the demolition of an existing asbestos filled structure. 200 Polish construction workers who worked illegally on the construction of Trump Tower in New York sued Trump, with some telling the New York Times that “they often worked in choking clouds of asbestos dust without protective equipment.” After court rulings against Trump the lawsuit settled in 1999 with the terms being confidential. More details of what happened can be found at this New York Times article.
Here is a Youtube video of Donald Trump in 2005 speaking in support of the use of asbestos: Trump Asbestos Video.
Interestingly, both Donald Trump and a man he greatly respects, Russian President Vladimir Putin, are strong advocates for the use of asbestos. Russia is now the world’s leading producer and exporter of asbestos. What will happen to US asbestos policy under Trump? Mr. Trump has so far been shown to be ineffective as President but he has made a number of changes within his authority reducing regulation of industry. We must be vigilant to see that this President does not undo the positive things that have been done to reduce to danger of asbestos exposure or to reduce compensation to victims of asbestos.