When Regulating Asbestos, the EPA Does Not Listen to Scientists

When Regulating Asbestos, the EPA Does Not Listen to Scientists

The advice of scientists and lawyers was ignored when the Environmental Protection Agency created its new asbestos rules regulating but not outright banning the substance. Asbestos fibers are very strong and good at resisting heat, making them ideal for insulation and construction. The main problem with asbestos though is that it is very dangerous once airborne. People inhale the fibers and develop lung cancer and mesothelioma, the cancer of the mesothelium, which surrounds the lungs and abdominal cavity. This new rule allows companies to use asbestos in new ways as well as start using previously banned uses, as long as the EPA approves.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says the rule does a better job protecting people throughout the country, but the agency’s own scientists and lawyers in internal memos say the EPA should have completely banned the carcinogenic substance. Staff members wrote that it should be completely banned because the dangers outweigh any benefits it may provide and there are alternatives available to prevent people from ever needing to use it. According to a former EPA official, it was strange for scientists to be ignored by EPA officials.

Staff members of the EPA found the new use rule to be flawed. Only studying six fibers is outdated because other fiber types can be just as harmful. They were also critical about the review only considering mesothelioma and lung cancer when there are many different cancers and illnesses that result from exposure to asbestos. Alex Dunn, the assistant administrator for chemical safety at the EPA recently testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee stating that the agency needs to be able to finish the congressionally mandated review before any action banning asbestos occurs.

Asbestos could also be banned through the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act, or ARBAN. If successful, it could completely ban the use and importation of asbestos without exceptions and give the EPA more oversight, allowing it to regulate chemicals more carefully.

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos and now have lung cancer or mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation. Call us at 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form to speak to an attorney and learn your options.

Lisa Friedman, “E.P.A. Leaders Disregarded Agency’s Experts in Issuing Asbestos Rule, Memos Show” The New York Times (May 8, 2019). [Link]

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