In July of 2019, nearly a dozen states filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The legal action revolved around the EPA’s current asbestos regulations, which many feel are far too lenient for manufacturers and importers.
The fight finally reached the courtroom, and the EPA is being taken to task.
The EPA attempted to defend its regulations two weeks ago in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. The Summary Judgement allowed the activist groups and states to press the EPA regarding its potentially dangerous asbestos loopholes.
“What we’re hearing from the agency is some scientific hocus pocus,” attorney Robert Sussman, representing public health advocacy groups, said.
Asbestos is the only scientifically accepted cause of mesothelioma, which forms in the narrow cavity near either the lungs or abdominal organs. It also causes cancers of the lungs and ovaries.
Asbestos is not banned (yet) in the United States. The House of Representatives nearly passed a bill to outlaw the substance in September, but lawmakers wiped it from the agenda before it reached a vote. It has not returned to the House floor since.
The EPA’s current rules allow companies to receive case-by-case approval for using asbestos in their products. This regulation shifted from previous EPA leadership, which flat-out denied specific uses of asbestos with little-to-no wiggle room.
Ten states plus the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the EPA. Their hope was to pressure the agency into imposing stricter regulations on companies importing, producing and using asbestos.
These states have another concern regarding the EPA’s asbestos rules: requirements for reporting quantities.
According to the Courthouse News Service website, the recent courtroom debate revolved around loose regulations that protect companies from disclosing how much asbestos is made, imported and added to U.S. products. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization asked the EPA nearly two years ago to close this loophole. The suing states agreed.
The agency has argued that “reporting is not required for ‘naturally occurring chemical substances.” It followed up that stricter reporting would not provide new information to the EPA.
This view contradicts the EPA’s draft risk evaluation regarding asbestos. In the draft, the EPA said it lacked information on the scope of asbestos exposure for workers and consumers.
Asbestos is mostly ousted from industrial work, such as construction and insulation. It’s still relevant in talc-based cosmetics and other consumer goods. Traces of asbestos were found in baby powder, makeup, children’s crayons and more.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen seemed to agree that the EPA’s regulations aren’t adequate.
“If additional information that may be helpful is available through narrowing some of these exemptions and requiring more robust reportage by the submitters, why is that information not reasonably available?” Chen asked, according to the Courthouse News Service report.
Sources & Author
- Trump’s EPA Defends Asbestos Reporting Loopholes in Court. Courthouse News Service. Retrieved from: https://www.courthousenews.com/trumps-epa-defends-asbestos-reporting-loopholes-in-court/. Accessed: 11/18/2020.
- The States’ Motion for Summary Judgment on Their Claims Under the Administrative Procedure Act. Courthouse News Service. Retrieved from: https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/asbestos-states-SJ-motion.pdf. Accessed: 11/18/2020.