In July 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published notice of its intention to adopt new risk-based rules on asbestos. This followed 2016 amendments to the longstanding Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The amendments require the EPA to take specific actions to prioritize, evaluate, and regulate dangerous substances. If the evaluation shows that a substance poses an unreasonable risk of injury to one’s health or the environment due to conditions of use, then the EPA must act to eliminate the risk.
The EPA’s record on regulating chemicals under the TSCA prior to the amendments was dismal. The EPA adopted partial restrictions for a dozen out of tens of thousands of known hazardous substances. Regarding asbestos, the EPA spent 10 years developing a rule to regulate it. The rule was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeals in 1991. The EPA failed to propose a single additional restriction on a chemical under the TSCA since that decision.
The EPA’s Chemical Data Reporting rule requires manufacturers and importers of hazardous substances to report their manufacturing, processing, and use of these substances to the agency. The EPA relies on this reporting to analyze health and environmental impacts to evaluate risk. The EPA cannot accurately evaluate risk without this information.
The rule regarding asbestos has significant exemptions. Manufacturers and importers will be off the hook for reporting use of naturally occurring substances. The rule also exempts reporting legacy uses of asbestos. This means hazards from exposure to workers who remove asbestos previously applied in buildings does not have to be reported. When uses are not reported, then risks associated with those uses will not be part of the agency’s risk assessment.
A coalition of Attorneys General from 15 states has formed to advocate for the EPA to develop more protective requirements regarding asbestos. The effort is being led by the Attorneys General for California and Massachusetts. Delaware has not yet joined the coalition.
The coalition has petitioned the EPA to eliminate reporting exemptions regarding asbestos. In addition, they are requesting the agency add to the rule’s reporting requirements data from processors of asbestos and data for imported products containing asbestos. The coalition claims the EPA’s approach defeats the purpose of the amendments to the TSCA and argue the approach will prevent the EPA from performing an accurate risk assessment of the health and environmental impacts of exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been mined extensively and used in a variety of products. In its natural form, or when asbestos-containing products are damaged or disposed of, the asbestos becomes airborne. Breathing asbestos has been linked to several fatal health conditions and cancers, including mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos currently causes the death of over 15,000 people a year in the U.S.
If you have been exposed to asbestos and are experiencing related health problems, then you may be able to recover for your medical expenses and more. Contact one of our experienced Delaware asbestos lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. for a free consultation. Call 302-656-5445 or complete an online form today. Located in Wilmington and Georgetown, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.