Administration Wants to Limit Review of Toxins
Believed to be influenced by those in the chemical industry, President Trump is pulling back from a congressionally-mandated review of some of the most dangerous chemicals still in use in the U.S. This includes asbestos as well as a number of other toxins used in homes and in industry.
“Instead of following President Barack Obama’s proposal to look at chemicals already in widespread use that result in some of the most common exposures, the new administration wants to limit the review to products still being manufactured and entering the marketplace,” reports an Associated Press article.
Those fighting for a ban on asbestos see this as a ridiculous – and dangerous – move. Such a proposal will have the EPA examining only the risk from the 300 or so metric tons of the toxic mineral that are imported into the United States annually, but it discards the dangers of the 9 million tons of asbestos-containing products that have been in use in the U.S. since about 1970.
Firefighters and construction workers are especially concerned about how this reversal of review jeopardizes their health. Both are among the occupations most affected by exposure to asbestos while on the job.
That’s because many building materials manufactured prior to 1980 historically contain asbestos. These include tiles, siding, shingles, dry wall tapes, mastics, concrete, and insulation.
Christopher P. Weis, who acted as the science adviser for the federal government for the Libby asbestos fiasco, had this to say about the President’s response to the review of these toxins:
“Research tells us that most environmental exposures — far and away — come from existing or legacy chemicals such as lead in Flint, Michigan or asbestos-contaminated products produced from vermiculite mined in Libby,” Weis explains.
“The notion that we understand all we need to understand about mineral fibers and many other environmental pollutants is far from complete,” adds Weis, who now works as senior toxicology adviser to the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “Stopping our ability as scientists to continue researching emerging issues surrounding environmental exposures and disease brings our ability to further our understanding through science to a screeching halt.”
The firefighters’ union concurs. Patrick Morrison of the International Association of Firefighters, says such a change in policy would affect “hundreds of thousands” of firefighters nationwide.
But Morrison notes that not only those who battle blazes are in danger when a house that contains asbestos products burns.
“It is by far the biggest hazard we have out there,” Morrison said.
However, he added, “My God, these are not just firefighters at risk. There are people that live in these structures and don’t know the danger of asbestos.”