The New York Times reports that officials at the EPA ignored their own lawyers and scientists when they decided to restrict asbestos usage and not ban it completely. Asbestos, used extensively in insulation, has been shown to cause a variety of health conditions, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, fibrosis of the lungs, ovary cancer and larynx cancer.
The material is heat-resistant and is still used in manufacturing.
“This historic step will add to the protections already in place to prevent the American public from experiencing the adverse health effects of asbestos,” states the EPA’s Andrew Wheeler. The statement allows asbestos to be used with restrictions, and any new use of the substance will need to go through the EPA before being allowed.
Experts claim that all new uses of asbestos should be banned.
The New York Times report uncovered two memos that indicate scientists and lawyers advised officials to ban the substance. Over a dozen senior officials at the EPA also called for the substance to be banned. EPA staff members wrote one memo, dated August 10, 2018, that called for the ban of all new uses of the substance. The memo notes that the extreme harm of the substance outweighs any benefit that it may provide.
Memos also noted that there are alternatives to asbestos that are more than adequate.
The memos also cite that cleanup efforts due to improper abandonment or disposal also make new uses of asbestos uneconomical.
Officials are calling on Congress to act if Wheeler and the Trump administration will not act. The subcommittee of the U.S House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on May 8 to call for the outright ban on asbestos. H.R. 1603 is calling for the Toxic Substances Control Act to be amended to prohibit the distribution, processing and manufacture of asbestos or asbestos-containing mixtures.