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Asbestos, environmental losses continue to grow: A.M. Best

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Neither asbestos nor environmental claims show signs of slowing down, says A.M. Best, in a report issued Wednesday, which estimates total asbestos and environmental ultimate losses of $146 billion.

Meanwhile, a herbicide is potentially the next asbestos-level threat to public health, said Oldwick, New Jersey-based Best, in its report No Slowdown in Asbestos and Environmental Claims.

For asbestos, there was an average of $1.9 billion in additional losses per year over the 2013-2017 period, according to the report.

“Quantifying the industry’s ultimate loss exposure is difficult, given the significant advancements in medical effectiveness, as well as developing litigation strategies,” said the report, which states its net ultimate asbestos loss estimate of $100 billion remains the same.

For environmental, the industry reported about $800 million in additional annual losses. Best said it has raised its estimate of ultimate net environmental losses for the industry to $46 billion, which was an increase of $4 billion over its previous estimate.

The report said the increase is because of the “continued development on original sites that have been found to be more toxic than originally thought, and the associated increase in cleanup and defense costs.”

It said the industry continues to incur about $750 million in  environmental losses per year, while paying out $760 million.

Of the estimated $146 billion in ultimate industry losses for asbestos and environmental, the industry has funded about $130 billion, or 89% of exposure as of year-end 2017, through a combination of paid losses and loss reserves, the report said.

Meanwhile, the report said a new potential exposure is glyphosate, an herbicide that can kill broadleaf plants and grasses, which was introduced into the America market in 1974, said the report.

The report said, “although too early to determine conclusively, concerns are growing that long-term exposure” to the chemical may be carcinogenic to humans “and could represent the next asbestos-level threat to public health if not proactively managed safely and effectively.”

The report said studies show dozens of oat-based foods such as cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars have glyphosate levels that are level, or higher, than the benchmark considered safe for children’s health, and that its consumption could be harmful to human health.