In light of two recent landmark settlements, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to strengthen its asbestos risk evaluation processes under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. The settlements were made this past October and are seen as victories for public health and environmental groups. The litigation was spearheaded by advocacy groups, including the American Public Health Association, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).
Going forward, the EPA’s evaluations will be expanded to address some named deficiencies. The EPA will be examining a range of non-cancer and cancer health hazards, addressing known, intended, and reasonably foreseen conditions of asbestos use, which were not considered in earlier evaluations.
The TSCA gives the EPA authority to mandate record keeping and testing requirements, restrictions, and reporting for chemical substances and mixtures. This does not include food, drugs, pesticides, and cosmetics. Its main focus is the production, distribution, use, and disposal of chemicals, such as lead-based paint, radon, polychlorinated biphenyls, and asbestos. Under the TSCA, the EPA is authorized to require the following:
These are some of the main policies in the TSCA, but there are others as well. The EPA also has a Compliance Monitoring Strategy (CMS) for the TCSA, which guides how they monitor regulated operations. This can include reviewing a facility’s compliance with regulations that govern how the chemicals are produced, distributed, and disposed.
The EPA released an assessment in December of last year that found unreasonable risks to consumers and employees who handle products containing asbestos. They did not consider all the forms of asbestos, and they only evaluated chrysotile asbestos, which is still imported into the U.S. Besides that, they did not evaluate the risks from legacy uses of asbestos. This includes construction materials, like insulation that are still in older buildings. The fact that this was left out was one of the reasons why the advocacy organizations challenged the EPA’s findings.
There are six kinds of asbestos fiber types that can be hazardous to humans and the environment. Chrysotile asbestos is the most common kind and is used as insulation for appliances, pipes, and ducts. It is also used in automobile brake linings and can be found in home and businesses, roofs, floors, ceilings, and walls.
Crocidolite asbestos was used to insulate steam engines and in cement products, plastics, pipe insulation, and coatings.
Amosite asbestos was used often in pipe insulation and cement sheets. It is also found in ceiling tiles, thermal insulation products, and insulating board.
Anthophyllite had been used infrequently for construction materials and insultation products, but is a known contaminant in chrysotile asbestos, talc, and vermiculite.
The other two kinds of asbestos, actinolite and tremolite, can also be found as contaminants.
Although chrysotile is the most commonly used and some forms are more dangerous than others, all forms of asbestos can be dangerous.
The government has not fully banned asbestos yet. The ADAO co-founder and president said that the settlements are an important step. In early 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was petitioned over the EPA’s earlier asbestos risk evaluation, claiming that the EPA did not use the best scientific resources available and that the evaluation was limited in its scope.
The ADAO president feels that asbestos poses a hidden threat in the country’s schools, homes, commercial buildings, factories, and consumer products. The new assessment will address the six asbestos fibers and examine all the diseases linked to exposure. The EPA will also be looking at how asbestos exposure risks impact more susceptible populations.
Even though asbestos was proven to cause cancer in the 1970s and many people think it was banned afterwards, this is not true. It is no longer mined in the U.S. and is not used as often, however, it is legal for it to be imported and used in some materials.
There have been countless studies done on the risks of asbestos, but as of now, the government has only banned it in less than a dozen kinds of products, plus new use in products that did not have asbestos in the past. Over 50 nations have fully banned asbestos, but the U.S. has not.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and it is classified as such by the EPA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC states that there is enough evidence to prove that asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the membrane lining the abdomen and chest. Asbestos can also lead to cancers of the ovaries, larynx, and lungs.
Besides the risk of cancer, asbestos exposure can also lead to asbestosis, which is an inflammatory lung condition marked by a coughing, a shortness of breath, and even permanent lung damage. Other asbestos-related illnesses may include nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders, like benign pleural effusions.
Symptoms of mesothelioma can be mistaken for other illnesses. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, it is wise to contact your physician:
A cancer diagnosis can be even more traumatic when it could have been prevented. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there may be a responsible party who could be held accountable. Our Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler can help you if you have mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-4000 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.