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Friday, February 12, 2021

Health Advocates Petition 9th Circuit for Asbestos Relief from EPA’s Flawed Final Risk Evaluation for Asbestos

Joined by five public health groups and six leading asbestos scientists, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure, today asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the asbestos risk evaluation issued last month by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

ADAO and its partners also sent EPA a 60-day letter notifying the agency of their intent to file suit under TSCA in a federal district court to assure that the agency meets its obligation to evaluate the risks of “legacy” asbestos found in millions of buildings across the United States. 

“Asbestos is one of the world’s largest man-made disasters. Disappointingly, the Trump EPA fell far short of a comprehensive evaluation as required in the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act,” said ADAO Co-founder and President Linda Reinstein.  “The EPA’s piecemeal and dangerously incomplete Final Risk Evaluation for Asbestos overlooks numerous sources of asbestos exposure and risk, and understates the enormous toll of disease and death for which asbestos is directly responsible,”  she continued. 

In its August 28, 2020 report, EPA’s own independent Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) concluded that “Overall, EPA’s environmental and human health risk evaluation for asbestos was not considered adequate and resulted in low confidence in the conclusions.” 

The shortcomings of the final asbestos evaluation were underscored in the December 22, 2020  decision by U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Chen, who ruled EPA has unlawfully failed to use its TSCA authority to obtain basic information on asbestos use and exposure needed for a sound risk evaluation. Judge Chen ordered EPA to amend its TSCA reporting rules to require submission of this information by industry. 

Despite its limitations, the final risk evaluation does conclude that a number of current asbestos uses to present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health. ADAO and its partners support these findings and urge EPA to ban these uses under TSCA in the risk management phase of its work. 

“Despite the 2019 decision of the Ninth Circuit that ongoing use and disposal of legacy asbestos must be addressed under TSCA, the Trump EPA made no progress in evaluating legacy asbestos, said ADAO Counsel Robert Sussman. “Instead, it promised a future evaluation without setting a deadline or defining its scope. Our 60-day letter to the EPA Administrator is a critical step in assuring that EPA protects the millions of Americans exposed to legacy asbestos in homes, factories, schools, public buildings, and commercial establishments.” 

Asbestos is a deadly substance that causes cancer and other serious diseases and has no safe level of exposure. It continues to kill nearly 40,000 Americans each year.

“We look forward to working with the Biden EPA and Congress to achieve the full protection Americans deserve from this deadly carcinogen,” said Reinstein. “We are also grateful for our ongoing partnership with 13 Attorney Generals, who joined us in our successful suit before Judge Chen and supported the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act in the last Congress. We look forward to continuing this collaboration as our work to prevent asbestos exposure enters a new phase.” 


The organizations joining ADAO in these legal actions are the American Public Health Association (APHA); Center for Environmental Health (CEH); Environmental Information Association (EIA): Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF); and Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) Scientists participating are Barry Castleman, ScD; Raja Flores, MD; Arthur Frank, MD, PhD; Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc; Richard Lemen, PhD, MSPH; and Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH.

To review previous legal actions and outcomes, refer to ADAO v. EPA Cases: Actions and Outcomes to Prevent Asbestos Exposure and Eliminate All Asbestos-Caused Diseases. 

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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  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

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Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters