Ten U.S. states and Washington, D.C. are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to start working on stricter asbestos rules that would protect the public from potential health risks.
The attorneys general from Massachusetts and California said on Monday that they were leading the case. The EPA previously denied petitions from the states to collect more data on asbestos.
The states believe that the denial was arbitrary and violated the EPA’s obligation under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
More states have joined the cause, with 11 Democratic attorneys general filing suit against the EPA, including Maine, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia.
“It is widely acknowledged that asbestos is one of the most harmful and toxic chemicals known to humankind,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a statement about the lawsuit.
The states are seeking to push the EPA to draft a new set of regulations related to the importation and use of asbestos as well as other chemicals. The attorneys general are seeking to have the court compel EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to issue a new reporting rule that would eliminate the “naturally occurring substance” exemption for asbestos.
Federal law allows for limited use of asbestos. In 2016, Congress amended the TSCA to create a process for regulating asbestos.
The EPA claims that protecting people from asbestos exposure is a top priority. In April, the agency enacted a rule that gave it power to review asbestos products that were no longer being sold on the market before they could be sold again. It was the first time the EPA took action on the substance in 30 years, but critics called it a half measure that may allow some asbestos products to be reintroduced onto the market.
The EPA has not ruled out an outright ban on asbestos under its new rule.