Attorneys General of 15 states are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt a new reporting rule on asbestos imports. This rule would require manufacturers and distributors to report all uses of asbestos to the EPA.
According to many policymakers in the U.S., current EPA regulations allow companies to import asbestos into the country without reporting it. Several Attorneys General are now petitioning Andrew Wheeler, the Acting Administrator of the United States EPA, to change this.
The new rule would allow the EPA to document the quantity and intended uses of asbestos being imported into the country. The AGs stress that collecting this information on asbestos use would help policymakers protect the public from being exposed to the toxic material.
Attorneys General Make Several Requests in the Petition
The petitioning group is led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
The group also includes the Attorneys General from the following states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- District of Columbia
The petition urges the EPA to address problems with current chemical reporting rules, so they can regulate asbestos more effectively.
Chemical reporting rules exist so the EPA can prevent toxic chemicals from risking public health or the environment. The chemical data reporting (CDR) rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires importers and manufacturers to report both the production and use of large quantities of chemicals. However, chemicals that are naturally-occurring, such as asbestos, are exempt from this rule—the petition seeks to eliminate this exemption.
The AGs are looking to apply the CDR rule to manufacturers, processors and importers of asbestos. That way, these companies would need to report their intended use of asbestos imports to the EPA. According to the AGs, this is necessary for the EPA to assess every possible way asbestos could be exposed to humans.
Giving this information to states and the public would help people avoid dangerous exposure to products containing asbestos.
Additionally, the AGs want to ensure that asbestos does not fall under any other reporting exemptions. They also ask that the rule requires reporting data on any imports that contain asbestos, whether asbestos was intended to be in the products or not.
The EPA Has Received Criticism Surrounding Asbestos Ruling
Asbestos is a highly dangerous substance that can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure for humans. Since asbestos is not banned in the U.S., it’s difficult for states to protect the public from asbestos exposure. Policymakers are asking for accurate information about its use, so they can help reduce the risk to the public.
The EPA is required to prevent unreasonable health risks to the public under the TSCA. Without information about asbestos use, advocates question how the EPA can properly evaluate the risk that people will be exposed to asbestos. The AGs assert that the EPA needs accurate data on asbestos use in order to properly evaluate the risk of exposure to humans.
Advocates pushing for the new asbestos imports reporting rule feel that the substance is both under-regulated and under-reported.
This recent petition follows a proposal introduced by the EPA in June of last year. The EPA proposed to change rules surrounding old asbestos products, such as floor tiles or roofing. Under the new rule, companies planning to import or manufacture these old asbestos products would have to notify the EPA first. This would allow the EPA to assess the risk of these new uses.
However, advocates worried this rule would lead to companies manufacturing out-of-date asbestos products that had previously been banned. Health advocates would like to see more permanent bans on outdated asbestos uses.
Increasing Public Demand for Better Asbestos Regulations
Although asbestos is not as widely used today as it once was, it is still found in a variety of products and poses a health risk in several occupations. It’s clear that there is increasing public concern about the danger of asbestos. This awareness has led to recent demand from advocates and policymakers to act against the risk.