The Environmental Protection Agency’s draft risk evaluation for asbestos will undergo a “peer review” by the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals.
This meeting, which is a virtual event slated for June 8-11, could inspire the EPA to take the risks of asbestos more seriously.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer. One of the most notorious potential effects of swallowing or breathing in asbestos is mesothelioma. This rare cancer forms in the lungs or abdominal cavity’s tissue linings, which mutate when irritated by sharp asbestos fibers.
The virtual meeting, which will be held over telephone or webcast, lets the public learn about and comment on the evaluation. Listening and not commenting, or submitting a comment, is free. All comments must be submitted by noon June 2 (Tuesday). You can register to attend at the EPA’s event link here.
What Does the Draft Risk Evaluation Say About Asbestos?
The draft risk evaluation was published at the end of March. The EPA initially scheduled this meeting for April 27-30 but delayed it due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
In the document, the EPA identifies workers in specific industries as being at a higher-than-normal risk of exposure to asbestos. The industries mentioned include:
- Chemical production
The evaluation also found that Americans were exposed to asbestos used in automobile brakes and linings. Automobile work and asbestos have been linked for decades. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers found a report from General Motors Corporation, which uncovered 90,000 chrysotile asbestos fibers in one nanogram of brake dust.
An estimated 3,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a fast-spreading cancer that is difficult to treat. As the only known proven cause of mesothelioma, asbestos is a controversial substance that many health experts and legislators believe should be banned entirely as a standalone commercial product or ingredient in consumer goods.
Could This Meeting Be a Step Towards an Asbestos Ban?
Despite all evidence pointing to its necessity, the EPA has yet to fully support a total ban of asbestos. Instead, the EPA has changed federal regulations to provide more government oversight into commercial uses of asbestos.
Companies are now required to receive the EPA’s approval before using asbestos in products. The EPA believes this change will ensure a public-health gatekeeper exists for all intended uses of asbestos. Activist organizations feel this regulatory change can reopen the door for once-banned applications.
The Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy published an exposé in April regarding why asbestos is a “hidden killer” and remains a “global threat.” In November, the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act.
The congressional efforts to ban asbestos are partly due to a lack of belief in the potential of the EPA taking action. However, the EPA remains steadfast that it will ban asbestos if deemed necessary. An agency official told The Hill website in 2019, “If there is any unreasonable risk … our regulation could take the form of a ban.”
If enough public opinions ask for a ban — to supplement the scientific information in favor of it — then it could push the EPA towards that move.
Show Sources & Author
- Peer Review of the Draft Risk Evaluation of Asbestos. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from:
https://www.epa.gov/tsca-peer-review/peer-review-draft-risk-evaluation-asbestos-0. Accessed: 05/28/2020.
- EPA finds asbestos poses cancer risks for workers, reigniting calls for ban. The Hill. Retrieved from:https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/490702-epa-finds-asbestos-poses-cancer-risks-for-workers-prompting-calls. Accessed: 04/23/2020.
- Asbestos-related cancers: the ‘Hidden Killer’ remains a global threat. Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy. Retrieved from:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14737140.2020.1745067. Accessed: 04/23/2020.
- H.R.1603 – Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019. Congress.gov. Retrieved from:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1603/text. Accessed: 03/25/2020.