The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will no longer evaluate the health impacts and risks of asbestos already in the environment, the agency announced. The agency’s move means that asbestos in piping, tiles and adhesives in businesses and homes throughout the United States will remain unaccounted for.
Approximately 15,000 people die in the United States each year due to asbestos-related illnesses.
The EPA’s decision comes after an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 2016, which mandate that the agency must perform safety reviews of certain chemicals, require testing of those chemicals, and provide the public with safety information for the chemicals. The amendment also gave the EPA the ability to ban certain uses of asbestos. Previously, the agency did not have this authority.
The EPA’s decision is facing backlash from awareness organizations, such as the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
“The end result will be a seriously inadequate risk evaluation that fails to address major contributors to the heavy and growing toll of asbestos mortality and disease in the United States,” said Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
Reinstein met with the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention deputy assistant administrator, Nancy Beck, to discuss the agency’s decision. Reinstein, along with other advocates of asbestos awareness, provided more than 100 studies that showed the hazards of asbestos even in low doses.
Beck refused to back down, and the decision still stands. Beck previously served as an executive at the American Chemistry Council, a major lobbying group for the chemical industry.
“If you don’t evaluate the dangerous legacy of asbestos you don’t know how much contamination still exists in the United States,” said Reinstein. “We know it’s in our homes, schools, workplace and environment but the average American can’t identify and evaluate the risk. We have taken risk evaluation off the table.”