The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not adequately protected Americans from the dangers of asbestos.
The recently published risk evaluation underscores this fact.
The EPA released its “Risk Evaluation for Asbestos, Part 1: Chrysotile Asbestos” a few weeks ago. It highlights the dangers of chrysotile asbestos, the most widely used type of the cancerous mineral, to American consumers, workers, bystanders and more. The EPA correctly states that exposure to this type of asbestos can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer.
However, a few important dangers are noticeably absent, leading to deserved criticism from activist organizations. Talc, for instance, goes unmentioned in the risk evaluation. The other five types of asbestos, which also can cause mesothelioma, are ignored. Environmental asbestos exposure and legacy asbestos are noted as the focuses of Part 2.
Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, gave scathing feedback to the EPA. She said the Risk Evaluation “ignores the numerous recommendations of its own scientific advisors and other independent experts by claiming that these deficiencies will be addressed in a future Part 2 evaluation.”
She continued that the agency offered a “dangerously incomplete evaluation that overlooks numerous sources of asbestos exposure and risk.” Reinstein said the EPA’s entire Risk Evaluation process may take “at least four more years” to complete, delaying the addressing of asbestos in homes, offices, schools, cosmetic products and more.
The carcinogenic mineral is heavily regulated, yet still legal, in American consumerism and industrialism. The EPA has the power to change this fact, but incomplete assessments like the risk evaluation don’t provide much hope.
What’s In Part 1 of the EPA’s Final Risk Evaluation
The EPA released a draft of the risk evaluation in 2020. The preview led to criticism, mostly about not including asbestos types aside from chrysotile.
Those criticisms remain, but the EPA, to its credit, did note some obvious dangers regarding chrysotile asbestos. This form is the most common, found in around 95% of buildings constructed before the 1980s. It was used in roof shingles, tiles, insulation, siding, floorboards, wiring and more.
Chrysotile asbestos is also called “white asbestos” and looks like stiff, woven-together fabric threads. It’s also found in gaskets, automobile brake pads and brake linings.
The EPA noted those dangers, in particular, saying it “found unreasonable risks to human health for uses of chrysotile asbestos.” The agency mentioned consumers and bystanders for uses in aftermarket automobile brakes and linings. The EPA also mentioned workers in the chlor-alkali industry and automobile repair industry.
The EPA plans to release Part 2, although it’s unclear when. The agency will also develop a risk management plan for chrysotile asbestos and the highlighted dangers in Part 1.
Talc Missing From the Risk Evaluation
So, what is Part 1 of the Risk Evaluation missing? Well, the list is considerable.
The biggest word left out is one of the shortest in length: talc.
Asbestos in talc was one of the biggest health stories of 2020. Talc cosmetics, such as eyeliner and mascara, pose a risk to consumers due to the growing likelihood of asbestos contamination.
In one study, asbestos was found in around 15% of talc cosmetic samples. In another, asbestos was found in close to 25% of samples.
Talc, which keeps skin healthy, is an appealing ingredient for cosmetics. It’s also a dangerous one.
Talc and asbestos form near one another in the earth’s soil. This cordial relationship causes them to mix together effortlessly. Mining for talc to include in cosmetics can inadvertently collect asbestos from the ground. Talc is then turned into a powder, which can easily trap loose, sharp threads of asbestos within the cosmetic product.
What About the Other Types of Asbestos?
What else is omitted from Part 1? Legacy asbestos in old buildings is glossed over, as the EPA says this will be addressed in Part 2. The agency also said it will touch on environmental asbestos exposure, mostly from disposals of the mineral.
The other types of asbestos are also absent from the EPA’s Risk Evaluation. Those five are:
- Amosite — Also called “brown asbestos” and found in 5% of old buildings
- Crocidolite — Most dangerous type
- Tremolite — Commonly found near talc
These five don’t even get a passing mention in the report. There isn’t even a statement that the EPA evaluated the risk but felt the types were largely inconsequential. For that reason, and for the lack of any reference to talc and asbestos, the “Final” Risk Evaluation feels more like a very rough draft.
Sources & Author
- Final Risk Evaluation for Asbestos, Part 1: Chrysotile Asbestos. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/final-risk-evaluation-asbestos-part-1-chrysotile. Accessed: 01/05/2021.
- Press Release: ADAO Condemns EPA for Its Incomplete and Weak Risk Evaluation for Asbestos, Citing that It Ignores Public Health Experts and Its Own Science Advisors. Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/newsroom/blogs/press-release-adao-condemns-epa-for-its-incomplete-and-weak-risk-evaluation-for-asbestos-citing-that-it-ignores-public-health-experts-and-its-own-science-advisors/. Accessed: 01/05/2021.