EPA Reviews Asbestos Under Chemical Safety Act

When the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century was penned and signed last year, thousands who’ve been touched by mesothelioma and by asbestos exposure in general were hoping that asbestos would appear on the list of the first substances to be scrutinized.

epa chemical safety actThey got their wish this week when the Environmental Protection Agency listed asbestos as one of 10 substances to receive priority review. Hopefully, it’ll be another step towards a total ban of the material in the United States.

According to an article in the government newspaper “The Hill”, the EPA released the list of prioritized chemicals today. Besides asbestos, the roster includes other toxins such as methylene chloride (a solvent), tetrachloroethylene (used in dry cleaning), 1-Bromopropane (another solvent), and several others.

Studies of these substances will be the first completed as part of a three-year project outlined by the Lautenberg Bill, which demands reports on the safety of a long list of chemicals. At the conclusion of the studies, the agency must present data that determines whether or not a specific chemical is harmful to human health or the environment.

“Under the new law, we now have the power to require safety reviews of all chemicals in the marketplace” Jim Jones, the EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety, said in a statement to the media. “We can ensure the public that we will deliver on the promise to better protect public health and the environment.”

Advocates for a ban on asbestos rallied hard to get the new Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century passed. They understood that the old Toxic Substances Act, authored in the 1970s, was obsolete.

Furthermore, proponents of an asbestos ban felt as if their pleas were long being ignored, especially since a federal court had already blocked the EPA from declaring asbestos a toxic substance and restricting its use.

That was way back in 1991. Since that time, several thousand Americans have died of asbestos-caused cancers and other related problems.

In general, the 1976 Toxic Substances Act was a failure, many believe. In the forty years since it was put into action, only a very small handful of chemicals have been banned.

Now, the EPA hopes their hands will no longer be tied and that they can move on with removing carcinogens like asbestos from the marketplace. Others agree.

“The potentially dangerous chemicals on this list are long overdue for attention from EPA,” said a representative from the Environmental Defense Fund.

“This action is a sign that the reformed law, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, is on the right track.”

So far, nearly 50 countries around the world have passed laws banning asbestos of all types. The United States has been a hold out as has Canada where, until just a few years ago, chrysotile “white” asbestos was mined and then exported all around the world.

Today, Canada no longer mines but they still receive sizeable imports of the mineral.