Are the EPA and Asbestos Industry in Cahoots?
With the 2016 overhauling of the Toxic Substances Control Act, proponents of an asbestos ban could finally see the forest through the trees, so to speak.
Asbestos was one of the first 10 chemicals/substances the EPA was to review in regards to its toxicity and continued use, and there was hope that a ban or severe restrictions – at least – would be put in place.
But now it seems that EPA head Scott Pruitt may represent the death of those hopes, say members of a number of asbestos watchdog groups, all of whom recently banned together to request records of communication between top EPA officials and representatives of the ACC, the Chlorine Institute, and companies including Occidental Chemical, Olin and Chemours.
The data is available under the Freedom of Information Act, notes concerned members of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), and American Oversight.
Why the need to see the communication? A member of the EWG explains that the chemical industry has been fervently pressing the EPA to allow the continued use of the mineral asbestos.
In a 2016 letter to the EPA, ACC stresses that asbestos is essential to the health of the chlor-alkali industry, which uses asbestos in its filters.
The chlor-alkali process produces chlorine and caustic soda, which are commodity chemicals used by a variety of industries.
The EPA’s Pruitt seems to ignore the fact that scores of Americans over the last 60 years or so have died due to asbestos exposure, proponents of a ban point out.
Each year in the U.S., some 3,000 individuals die due to asbestos-related diseases. Nearly all of those deaths would be preventable with a ban on asbestos usage in place.
“Administrator Pruitt has the chance to finally close one of the most tragic chapters in this decades-long public health crisis that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives and devastated their families,” said Linda Reinstein, co-founder and president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. “Nearly half of the companies in the chlor-alkali industry have stopped using asbestos, confirming there is no reason to allow its continued import and use. Americans deserve nothing short of an outright ban.”
“Every time we uncover new emails from the EPA, it is clear that the only voices Scott Pruitt listens to are those of chemical and energy industry companies,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “On an issue that should be as clear cut as banning asbestos, is deeply troubling that Scott Pruitt appears to be taking his marching orders from polluting industries once again.”
EWG president Ken Cook concurs.
“From his earliest decisions as EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt has repeatedly sided with polluters and against public health,” he wrote in a recent article. “It is important that Americans know just how much the chemical industry is pressuring Pruitt and the Trump administration to keep asbestos legal.”