Ban Asbestos Advocates Dismayed with Latest EPA Move
On June 1, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its “problem formulation” documents for the first ten chemicals under review as required by the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was signed into law during the Obama administration.
Those chemicals include asbestos.
The “problem formulation”, which was released for public comment, includes a significant new use rule (SNUR) proposal enabling the agency to prevent new uses of asbestos. The EPA contends that this is the first ever such action on asbestos proposed in the United States.
“These actions provide the American people with transparency and an opportunity to comment on how EPA plans to evaluate the ten chemicals undergoing risk evaluation, select studies, and use the best available science to ensure chemicals in the marketplace are safe,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “At the same time, we are moving forward to take important, unprecedented action on asbestos.”
So those looking for a ban on asbestos should be pleased, right?
That’s not the case, says Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Acting Director Liz Hitchcock, who claims that the new proposed legislation simply does not go far enough in helping to avoid exposure to toxic asbestos, which causes diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other types of cancers.
“We are profoundly disappointed that the asbestos problem formulation released today by the EPA indicates that the agency will not consider legacy uses of asbestos in its risk evaluation of this deadly chemical,” she said.
“With an estimated 15,000 Americans dying each year from diseases associated with asbestos exposure, it’s past time for the EPA to finish the job of protecting human health from this notoriously deadly fiber. If the fatal flaw of ‘old TSCA’ was that the EPA could not use it to ban asbestos, the fatal flaw of the Pruitt EPA is that they will not use reformed TSCA to protect us from asbestos.”
It’s the existing asbestos that’s often a problem when it comes to exposure. Old homes, commercial buildings, and factories that were built prior to the 1970s often contain asbestos, yet the new laws will not make demands for asbestos removal or remediation in those cases.
Construction workers, DIYers, and others involved in demolition, renovations, or remodeling are often the ones unknowingly exposed to the materials, and with no total ban, that’ll remain the same.
The EPA should include all uses and exposures within the scope of risk evaluation, maintains Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families in a publication regarding the TSCA. This would include:
- The complete life cycle of asbestos use in the chlor-alkali industry, including mining, bagging, shipping, distribution, processing, diaphragm manufacture, use & disposal;
- All uses of talc and talc-containing products contaminated with asbestos; and
- The use and disposal of all consumer & commercial products that contain asbestos.