On July 1, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a "significant new use rule," which invites manufacturers to petition the EPA to seek approval of any new asbestos product on a case-by-case basis. The rule says that the EPA will evaluate new asbestos products as "new use" if they've determined they aren't currently being manufactured.
That opens up the possibility of all manner of new asbestos-based products, including adhesives, roofing materials, pipe insulation and floor tiles. The move is part of the Trump EPA's ongoing efforts to relax restrictions on big business while weakening environmental and health protections.
Asbestos actually has a solid place in the current marketing ecosystem, thanks to omnipresent cable-TV ads from law firms that specialize in legal settlements related to mesothelioma, an agressive form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. But if the Trump administration gets its wish and prompts a fresh wave of asbestos-containing products, somebody is going to have to figure out how to market it.
A tall order, for sure. Maybe the best place to start for inspiration is post-war America, when asbestos marketing, it seems, was a cinch:
In this '50s-era TV ad, an announcer cheerfully describes a home-improvement scene: "Smart woman! She's putting a new floor down by herself! Wise woman. She's using Kentile Vinyl Asbestos Tile!"
'This is the floor for the active rooms!'
Armstrong's 1965 ad for its Excelon Tile shows how amazingly durable it is. Look at those mod young couples dancing up a storm on their embossed vinyl-asbestos flooring!
'A trouble-free lifetime'
In this '50s infomercial, a husband and wife briefly talk about how they'll construct their dream home, but the real driving force of the ad is the narrator, who affects the tone of a benevolent science teacher eager to run down the wonders of asbestos roofing, "which has made buildings safer and more durable. It was natural that the scientists would turn to asbestos, for this is a remarkable mineral." The infomercial then hypes asbestos cement siding, which "was designed to last a lifetime—a trouble-free lifetime."
Maybe call it something other than 'asbestos'
During asbestos' heyday, not every asbestos-containing product played it up by name. Take, for instance, this 1956 commercial for Kent cigarettes. The announcer praises the brand's "Micronite" filter for its "high filtration"—but never mentions that, astonishingly enough, Micronite contained asbestos. (Fascinating and disturbing backstory courtesy of Mother Jones: "Remember When Big Tobacco Sold Asbestos as the 'Greatest Health Protection'?")
'The most unusual and useful mineral fiber known to man'
Maybe the Trump Adminstration could do what the Eisenhower Administration's Bureau of Mines did in 1959: Put out a propaganda film praising asbestos, which "has played a tremendous role in the improvement of our standard of living."
Bonus video: a spoof whose time has come?
And finally, here's an initially (briefly) semi-convincing '50s-era commercial for Larsons Quality Asbestos—which soon devolves into obvious parody (courtesy of a YouTube creator named Julien Bubler) when the kid spokesperson in the ad swallows asbestos, sprinkles it on his food and uses a fan to disperse asbestos particles to make the air around him fireproof. Sure it's ridiculous, but in today's cultural/political climate, with its strong anti-science undercurrents (see: climate-change denial and anti-vax activism), maybe the kinds of "alternative facts" seen here could work.