Eleven attorneys general covering the District of Colombia and ten states went to court with a suit filed on the EPA for more stringent asbestos regulations. Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a restrictive rule on asbestos in April, they did not ban the deadly substance. The suit filed would force the EPA to proclaim a new, and more thorough, asbestos reporting rule after the EPA denied a petition to gather more data on asbestos.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a release addressing the suit filed on the EPA, “It is widely acknowledged that asbestos is one of the most harmful and toxic chemicals known to humankind. While it’s troubling that we must once again take the EPA to court to force the agency to do its job, we won’t pull any punches. There’s too much at stake to let the EPA ignore the danger that deadly asbestos poses to our communities.”
Dangers of asbestos
Asbestos was widely used in a multitude of situations, including construction, mining, shipbuilding, and fireproofing. Use of the material was mostly banned by the end of the 1970s. However, it still exists in homes, businesses, schools, and commercial buildings constructed before 1980. There is no safe use, so proponents for a complete ban have been active for many years.
While its benefits for insulation and fireproofing made it a prime component of construction, its tiny fibers – when disturbed – are easily inhaled by workers or anyone in the vicinity. Asbestos still kills thousands of people each year – some who were exposed 50 years ago due to its long latency period. This can show up in mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
The April EPA rule
This rule was the first EPA action on asbestos use in 30 years, but critics claim that it could still allow some asbestos products to be reintroduced in the market. Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention stated, “If there is any unreasonable risk, the EPA will regulate, and our regulation could take the form of a ban.” But Democrats want to see action – meaning a full ban, not more rules that they perceive as loopholes to asbestos use.
Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group, wrote, “This new rule makes it more difficult for industry to resume some abandoned uses of asbestos, but that is a half-step at best.” An outright ban “is the only way the public can trust industry will never again be able to use this dangerous material that has literally killed tens of thousands of Americans.”
States in suit filed on the EPA
The ten states suing include: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia.