States Demand EPA Track Asbestos Use

Sixteen State Attorneys General have formed a coalition and petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to issue new rules that would require the reporting of asbestos uses, The Hill reported.  The coalition, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, believes that inadequate reporting and tracking systems on imported and domestic asbestos make it impossible for EPA to comply with its mandate to prevent risks to the health and environment posed by the widespread use of asbestos.  Healey said, “Each year, tens of thousands die from exposure to asbestos. We urge Acting Administrator [Andrew] Wheeler to issue a rule that will protect the lives of thousands of workers, families, and children in Massachusetts and across the country.”

According to The Tribune News Service, the Attorneys General are demanding action from EPA because:

  • Asbestos is a carcinogen that claims 15,000 lives per year.
  • Asbestos is linked to diseases that are extremely harmful or even life-threatening, including mesothelioma, fibrosis, lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancer.
  • EPA is currently not tracking and reporting the use of asbestos in the United States.
  • Only a few uses of asbestos are banned in the U.S., but a law passed in 2016 gives Congress more authority to ban uses of this deadly substance.

According to The Hill, last summer the EPA proposed an ineffectual rule that only would require companies to let EPA know if they planned to import or manufacture asbestos for a few very out-of-date uses like for roofing felt and floor tile.  Many argued at the time that the EPA, by proposing such a narrow list of obsolete uses for reporting, then companies could use asbestos in other ways and no one would know.  

Why This Matters:  This is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s EPA turning its back on its mission to protect people from harmful chemicals in the environment.  Assuming the best — that EPA was not covering for the industry — then the proposed EPA rule appears to have been a half-hearted effort to regulate a toxic substance that is widely known as a harmful carcinogen.  It is good that the Attorneys General are working hard to protect their constituents.  With more information about asbestos uses, it is likely that lives can be saved.  

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