ATLANTA, GA—In a move heralded by environmental activists and mesothelioma patients alike, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will vouchsafe the implementation of Clean Air Act Asbestos regulations in Georgia. The state had previously discontinued asbestos abatement programs, including inspections, complaint follow-up and enforcement, because of budget problems.
The EPA made a statement on March 20th, 2009, declaring that by mutual agreement with Georgia, federal officials will undertake all aspects of asbestos monitoring. In addition to processing notifications for asbestos management such as renovation, encapsulation, and demolition, the EPA will approve asbestos supervisor training and issue licenses for contractors who work with asbestos.
Inspection and enforcement of abatement procedures – renovation, disposal and demolition projects at commercial, industrial, retail and residential sites – will also be carried out by the EPA.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral substance which is often combined with other materials in the manufacture of building products. It is prized for its chemical, heat and electrical resistance. Although technically still legal in many consumer products, the dangers of asbestos-containing materials have been known for some time. When asbestos-containing materials are destroyed, decayed or otherwise disturbed, they become “friable,” meaning that they are reduced to microscopic fibers which are airborne. These fibers can be breathed in by people at or near the site, or by those who come in contact with asbestos workers. When they are ingested, these fibers penetrate the lungs as well as other organs, and can lead to a number of deadly diseases – mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. The latency period for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers is a long one, meaning that people can contract the disease but not show symptoms for many years. Unfortunately, these cancers are not often diagnosed until they have reached late stages, at which point they cannot usually be cured.
The EPA has additionally established programs which will report on asbestos violations by construction, renovation and manufacturing industries, and enforce any such violations as they are discovered. Federal law allows for up to $37,500 per day to be levied in fines in each instance of violation.
Requirements for working with asbestos were set out in the Clean Air Act’s National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants. The Environmental Protection Agency attempts to enforce these regulations in every state.