Toxic Substances Control Act May Not Work Quickly Enough

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Critics of the newly-revised Toxic Substances Control Act say there are parameters surrounding the legislation that could allow the EPA to wait years before warning individuals that they might be exposed to harmful asbestos, notes an article in the Billings (Mont.) Gazette.

Toxic Substances Control ActLast week, a senior spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that though extensive studies confirm that products like Montana-produced Zonolite™ insulation made by W.R. Grace and Company is hazardous to human health, the EPA has three years to take action and warn homeowners that they may be living with dangerous asbestos.

Add to that the position taken by the recent administration in regards to the EPA and it’s likely that more and more people in the U.S. will be unwittingly exposed to asbestos, the article points out.

Linda Reinstein, founder and CEO/president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) agrees.

In regards to the asbestos-tainted insulation, used in tens of thousands of homes throughout the U.S. and Canada, she proclaimed it to be “inexcusable that the EPA is willing to wait years before telling homeowners they’re at risk of exposure to deadly Zonolite.”

“There’s no reason to wait,” Reinstein added. “We’ve known the facts about the asbestos-contaminated wall and attic insulation for decades. The time is now for the EPA to warn an estimated 30 million homeowners about the asbestos in their attics. The longer they wait, the more people will get sick and die from preventable diseases. As a mesothelioma widow, I know the pain; I buried my husband.”

The vermiculite used in the insulation, as well as in many other products including gardening items such as fertilizer, was heavily tainted by asbestos. The vermiculite found its way to dozens of processing plants around the country, operated by W.R. Grace and other companies, resulting in the exposure of many workers to the toxic material.

Though asbestos was named one of the first 10 substances to be investigated as a result of the Obama-signed Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – the new version of the old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 – the EPA hasn’t committed to any particular steps to warn the general public about items such as Zonolite insulation.

“It’s too early to say what the result will be and what action EPA will take,” reiterated a senior EPA spokesperson. “TSCA requires these chemical risk evaluations be completed within three years.”

In the meantime, it doesn’t sound as if the EPA is in any hurry to get the job done. And with a new stop order on the awarding of EPA grants and contracts, it may very well be three years before the evaluation is done…if it gets done at all.

Nonetheless, the dangers from exposure to Libby vermiculite are more than evident from the number of sick and deceased in that town. For them and for many others around the country who’ve encountered the vermiculite either at home or on the job, it all may wind up being too little, too late.

“People are touching this stuff all the time. They drill a hole in the ceiling, or they rip a wall out. An electrician strings new wiring through a wall to put up additional outlets or cables, or the attic, walls or floor joists are packed with Zonolite,” says physician and researcher Jim Lockey of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Where it’s used in home insulation should be identified. The homeowners should be warned that it’s in the air, and they should keep it isolated and avoid moving it at all.”