A U.S. District Court judge ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency — and in favor of public health — regarding an asbestos regulation.
Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California ruled at the end of December that the EPA must improve its data collection on asbestos imported from other countries. It’s unknown when this new rule would take effect. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization spent multiple years pushing for these improvements.
The Hill announced the ruling and laid out the arguments from health advocates, who believed the data collected wasn’t sufficient to evaluate the dangers. Breathing in or swallowing asbestos is the sole cause of mesothelioma, and exposure can lead to other diseases like lung cancer or lung scarring.
Asbestos was used for decades in several ways, including constructing and insulating buildings. In fact, most homes built before 1980 were made with the naturally occurring mineral.
In the years since, asbestos has become close to obsolete in American manufacturing. However, it’s still a component of chlor-alkali products and often contaminates talc cosmetics.
The U.S. still imports approximately 100 metric tons of asbestos, almost all of it from Brazil. This judge’s ruling, if higher courts uphold it after any appeals, would force the EPA to increase regulations on those imports.
The EPA currently regulates asbestos on a case-by-case basis. Supporters of the EPA believe this blocks dangerous uses of asbestos. Critics think it opens loopholes for companies to bring asbestos back to common use.
Judge Chen wrote that asbestos-containing products identified by the EPA when making its rules were “only the tip of the iceberg.” He ruled that the EPA doesn’t currently collect enough data to “make accurate assessments.”
The EPA altered the asbestos regulations in 2019 but stopped short of banning the substance. The agency has been criticized repeatedly for its lack of research and data collection regarding asbestos. The EPA also is accused of ignoring activists and public health groups asking for more concern regarding types of asbestos.
Sources & Author
Court orders EPA to step up asbestos data collection. The Hill. Retrieved from: https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/531514-court-orders-epa-to-step-up-asbestos-import-data-collection. Accessed: 12/29/2020.
Sources & Author