Trump EPA Moves To Shield Info on Asbestos Imports and Use From Public
The Trump administration has denied a petition by a coalition of environmental groups calling for increased reporting of asbestos importation and use by U.S. manufacturers – despite a sharp rise in asbestos imports into U.S. ports.
The petition asked the Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, to require importers and users of asbestos and asbestos-containing products to report on their activities and disclose these reports to the public.
"An unfortunate legacy of asbestos-related disease is likely to remain a problem of huge proportions not only for New Jersey's Workers' Compensation System but also for the nation as a whole for many years to come. Asbestos fiber still remains prevalent in work environments throughout the nation.
Equipment containing asbestos remains in use, and buildings containing asbestos fiber will require maintenance, repair, encapsulation and/or removal. The long latency periods for asbestos-related disease further complicate estimated projections for the future." Gelman, Jon L, Workers’ Compensation Law, 38 NJPRAC 9.20 (Thomson-Reuters 2018).
Chemical Watch reported on Wednesday about an unpublished notice by EPA not yet posted on the Federal Register that it will not implement additional reporting of asbestos imports and usage, even though the agency has the authority to do so under TSCA’s chemical data reporting rule. In its denial of the petition, the EPA claimed it “is aware of all ongoing uses of asbestos.”
However, recent federal data documents a huge surge in asbestos imports to the U.S., raising concerns that the EPA does not fully understand where and how much of the notorious carcinogen is being used.
In October, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, or ADAO, and EWG analyzed import data that showed asbestos imports soared by nearly 2,000 percent between July and August 2018.
According to the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Commerce Department, in August alone, the U.S. imported 272 metric tons of asbestos, compared with 13 metric tons in July.
“President Trump’s EPA not only refused to ban asbestos, which kills tens of thousands each year, it won’t even take a closer look at how much is imported and where and how it’s being used by companies,” said ADAO President and Co-Founder Linda Reinstein. “The hundreds of thousands of deaths caused from asbestos in the U.S. alone should be reason enough for the Trump administration to better inform the public about potential routes of exposure.”
“Ratcheting up reporting requirements for one of the deadliest substances known would be a layup for any other president or EPA chief,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Shamefully, under Trump and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the agency is no longer in the business of promoting policies that protect public health. Instead, Trump and Wheeler have turned the EPA into an extension of the chemical industry, putting Americans’ lives at risk by rubber-stamping the industry’s deregulatory agenda.”
The petition was submitted in September by the ADAO, EWG, the Center for Environmental Health, the American Public Health Association, the Environmental Health Strategy Center and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
ADAO is currently reviewing legal options for compelling the EPA to use its authority under TSCA to increase transparency of both asbestos imports and use by industry.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.