EPA action on asbestos a good step, but more work to be done

asbestos-removal

At one of his last public events, Andy Igrajas, Founding Director of Safe Chemicals Healthy Families, accepted the Inspiration Award 2017 Tribute from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) on our behalf. In his remarks he clarified that true respect belongs to all the families who lost their loved ones to asbestos related diseases and turned their grief into activism to ban asbestos.

Those families scored a significant victory last week when US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) administrator Michael Regan announced that the EPA would ban the use, manufacture and import of chrysotile asbestos, one of six harmful asbestos fibers. The largest use of this form of asbestos is in the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda, which rely heavily on imports of raw asbestos. With 40,000 deaths from asbestos-related diseases every year in this country, this is a historic and significant step forward.

But there’s still more work to do to really save us from this notoriously dangerous substance.

The surprising fact that our country has not yet banned asbestos – despite its known link to harmful health effects – is how the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 was doing little to protect public health, This came to the center stage during the discussion.

At the time, when we spoke with staff and members of Congress about the need for TSCA reform, we found that many were surprised at how broken this 1976 law was, especially when we explained that the EPA banned asbestos. had worked for years to impose, only to have the ban lifted in court in 1991. They recognized that, if the EPA can’t use TSCA to combat this known carcinogen, they certainly can’t protect the public from the thousands of other chemicals we’re exposed to every day. The products we buy, in our homes and in our workplaces.

The lack of any restrictions on asbestos was noted by President Obama in June 2016 during his signing of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, which reformed the 1976 TSCA, when he said that the US chemical system under TSCA was “so complex, so It was cumbersome that our country could not even ban asbestos. I think a lot of Americans would be surprised by all of this.”

By amending the TSCA, Congress gave the EPA new tools to eliminate asbestos from US commerce and expects it to use them coercively. As we know now, it didn’t go that way.

In 2017, in the first action under the newly reformed TSCA, the Trump EPA announced that it would only look at one form of asbestos and that it would not look at “legacy” uses of asbestos – the asbestos used for decades across the US. “Legacy” asbestos for insulating and fireproofing buildings is still found in the insulation, plaster and floor tiles in our homes, our children’s schools, and our workplaces. It is being taken out of buildings that are being torn down and rebuilt in towns and cities across the country.

Working with affiliated organizations, we took the EPA to court and won when the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found Safe Chemicals Healthy Family vs US EPA That TSCA requires the EPA to assess risk for the use of “legacy” in its risk assessment.

Now, nearly six years after the TSCA reform was signed into law, the EPA has proposed a rule that bans the import, use, and manufacture of one type of asbestos fiber.

Glad we’re seeing this in action, it’s important to note that there’s more work to be done.

in august 2020, The EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) recognized that the EPA contained “only a limited piece” for asbestos when they reviewed the EPA’s Part 1 draft risk assessment and further stated that it was “for its carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic properties”. Minimizes carcinogenic hazards and ignores environmental exposure pathways. The EPA’s new risk management rule should provide an additional level of protection to offset the greater understanding of risk and exposure in Part 1.”

The EPA has taken a welcome and long-pending first step. But, there is still more work to do to protect us from the unacceptable danger of asbestos posing asbestos in our homes, our schools and workplaces across the country.

Agreement with in October 2021 Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)safe chemicals healthy family, American Public Health Associationand four other public health organizations, the EPA, expanded its planned “Part 2” asbestos risk assessment by looking at all six asbestos fiber types, and to address deficiencies in “Part 1” to evaluate the risks of “inheritance”. Committed to expanding. Asbestos was found in millions of buildings and consumer products across the United States as of December 1, 2024.

We expect the EPA to cease work and protect us from all forms and uses of this highly toxic substance, including banning all forms of asbestos.

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