EPA Sides with Industry in Refusing to Require Chemical Data Reporting to Protect the Public from Deadly Asbestos. ADAO et al. vs Andrew Wheeler and the EPA.
Washington, DC — The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an independent nonprofit dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure, filed suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of its Right to Know Petition on asbestos. EPA’s petition denial means that the Agency will fail to collect information from industry necessary to assess the ongoing risks from deadly asbestos and inform the public of the continuing threat of asbestos exposure in the US. Five other public health joined ADAO as plaintiffs.
Linda Reinstein, ADAO President and CEO stated, “Annually, nearly 40,000 Americans die from preventable asbestos-related diseases and exposure continues. Scientific literature confirms that asbestos is a known human carcinogen and there is no safe level of exposure. We cannot afford to stand by while EPA irresponsibly abdicates its duty to protect public health and consumer safety. Americans have the right to know how much asbestos is present in their homes, schools, workplaces, and communities; where it’s being used; and the potential for exposure to workers and the public. It’s past time for asbestos importers and users, like the chlor-alkali industry, to disclose to EPA and the public the hundreds of tons of asbestos that they use in manufacturing and the products they distribute in commerce. Without this information, EPA’s career scientists won’t have the tools to assess the risk and take responsible action to prevent exposure.”
The original petition from the public health groups was filed under section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on September 26, 2018, and denied by EPA on December 21, 2018. Along with other information, the petition asked EPA to require reporting on consumer products containing asbestos-contaminated talc. Recent media reports have highlighted the dangers of such products, which have been widely used in baby powder and other consumer applications. EPA has made no effort to gather information on these products and address their risks.
Bob Sussman, counsel for ADAO and a former EPA official, noted, “EPA’s petition denial is another unfortunate example of its failure to live up to the important public health goals of Congress when it amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016. The petition denial is a weak and irresponsible response to the compelling case we made for the need for comprehensive and current information about asbestos to meet the requirements of the law, and fully inform the public.”
The original petition from ADAO and other groups demonstrated that, because asbestos was exempt from EPA reporting regulations, the largest asbestos importer in the US, Occidental Chemical Corporation, had failed to notify EPA of the amounts of asbestos it was importing.
Commenting on EPA’s failure to acknowledge or correct this loophole, Ms. Reinstein said that: “We urge EPA Administrator Wheeler to reconsider his indefensible position and eliminate the loophole that exempts asbestos from the same reporting requirements that apply to thousands of other chemicals.”
On January 31, 2019, Attorneys General from 14 states and the District of Columbia filed a similar petition, also under section 21 of TSCA, to require reporting and disclosure of critical information about asbestos importation, use, and exposure. Concurrent with the states’ filing, ADAO asked Administrator Wheeler to reverse his denial of the ADAO petition and submitted an extensive rebuttal of EPA’s grounds for rejecting the petition.
The groups joining ADAO as plaintiffs are the American Public Health Association (APHA), Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Environmental Health Strategies Center (EHSC), Environmental Working Group (EWG), and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
About the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO is the largest non-profit in the U.S. dedicated to providing asbestos victims and concerned citizens with a united voice through our education, advocacy, and community initiatives. ADAO seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure, advocate for an asbestos ban, and protect asbestos victims’ civil rights. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org
- Kim Cecchini
- Tracy Russo
Reprinted with Permission.