The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) postponed a meeting of a science advisory panel that was supposed to happen on April 27. The panel is set to critique the EPA’s draft of an analysis of the risks posed by ongoing asbestos use. Asbestos, which can cause serious illnesses, including mesothelioma, is not completely banned I the U.S. The delay comes as too many experts are unavailable due to the pandemic.
EPA Finds Unreasonable Risk in Asbestos Use
The Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) was set to gather virtually beginning April 27 to critique the agency’s assessment of asbestos risk. The analysis also included other chemicals, like trichloroethylene.
The EPA released a report that the SACC is supposed to evaluate. That report on the risks of asbestos use concluded that its use in commercial and personal uses poses unacceptable risk levels to human health. Exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to inhalation or ingestion. The fibers can then cause damage in tissue and lead to scarring in the lungs, lung cancer, mesothelioma, or other asbestos-related diseases.
The draft of the risk evaluation was mandated by the Toxic Substances Control Act, a law that was modified in 2019. The changes to the law, according to the EPA were designed to close loopholes and limit asbestos use even further. But critics say that nothing short of an outright ban will eliminate asbestos risks.
COVID-19 Outbreak Delays Panel Indefinitely
Because of the ongoing pandemic due to the coronavirus, the SACC critique of the EPA’s risk evaluation has been put off indefinitely. The panel was set to meet virtually, but too many members are unable to attend. The medical experts on the SACC felt that attending to the pandemic took precedence.
Public comments on the risk evaluation are currently set to be due June 2, but the EPA may put off that deadline as well. The amended law on toxic substances requires that the final analysis on asbestos risk be ready by June, but the EPA announced that it may end up behind that deadline.
Legacy Asbestos Products Continue to Pose Public Health Risk
The EPA’s current risk assessment highlights legacy asbestos products as the biggest danger to human health. These are products that were made and installed 30 years ago, before the Toxic Substances Control Act was signed into law.
These products, according to the EPA, pose an unreasonable risk to workers involved in using them but also to residents and bystanders. Some of the products specifically mentioned in the report include:
- Brake blocks with asbestos
- Aftermarket brake linings
- Friction products used in the automotive industry
- Asbestos diaphragms used in chloralkali production
- Asbestos gaskets used in many commercial industries
While the EPA did not find a risk to the general public, there are plenty of people who have no choice but to work with or around these asbestos materials. The risk posed to their health is high.
As the pandemic continues, it is currently unknown when the evaluation of asbestos risk will continue. Proponents of a full ban hope to get back to it soon in order to push for laws and amendments to the current law that will truly end the risk of asbestos exposure.
- Trager, R., (2020, April 3). US Agency Concludes Asbestos Exposure Poses ‘Unreasonable’ Risk in Many Cases. Chemistry World.
Retrieved from: https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/us-agency-concludes-asbestos-exposure-poses-unreasonable-risk-in-many-cases/4011464.article
- Bloomberg Law. (2020, April 29). Scientists’ Critique of EPA’s Draft Asbestos Analysis Delayed.
Retrieved from: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/scientists-critique-of-epas-draft-asbestos-analysis-delayed