It's time for the EPA to ban asbestos once and for all

Nearly 40,000 Americans...

Posted: Aug 16, 2018 2:51 PM
Updated: Aug 16, 2018 2:51 PM

Nearly 40,000 Americans die from preventable asbestos-caused diseases every year, yet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still hasn't banned this toxic substance.

Asbestos was once marketed as a "miracle mineral" for its flame-resistance, strength and flexibility to use in construction, but has since been revealed for what it truly is: a killer. Microscopic asbestos fibers can become trapped in our bodies, leading to deadly diseases years after original exposure. In short, there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, but the toxic substance is still legal and lethal, at least in part, in the US.

Asbestos

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Chemical industry and chemicals

Chemicals and environment

Donald Trump

Environment and natural resources

Environmental law

Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental regulation and policy

Exports and imports

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government organizations - US

International trade

Law and legal system

Political Figures - US

Toxic and hazardous substances

Trade and development

US federal departments and agencies

US federal government

US government independent agencies

White House

The EPA attempted to ban asbestos in 1989 but was sued by Corrosion Proof Fittings -- a company that used asbestos in their products. And, in 1991, an appeals court overturned the ban. Ultimately, the EPA was only able to ban five obsolete asbestos-containing products and any new commercial uses.

Not only has this allowed old construction containing poisonous asbestos to stand, but it left gaping holes through which 31 million metric tons of asbestos have been consumed since 1900. Companies can legally import products that contain asbestos, including some crayons and makeup.

Over the course of the last 25 years, thousands of Americans, including my husband, became sick and died of asbestos-induced illnesses. It's high time to close the loopholes and impose a complete ban on asbestos -- and that opportunity is now before us.

In 2016, Congress came together in a rare act of bipartisanship and rewrote the chemical regulations law. The updated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) finally gave the EPA the regulatory authority to protect us from dangerous toxic substances like asbestos. When it was signed into law, President Barack Obama remarked the much-needed legislation was a necessary step forward, saying, "The [old] system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn't even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos."

As a mesothelioma widow and advocate, I was encouraged. Surely this meant an asbestos ban, like those more than 60 countries have put in place, was imminent. Then Donald Trump was elected.

Trump has a long-standing and well-documented love for asbestos. On Twitter, in congressional hearings and as an author, he has professed his love for killer asbestos.

Why would the President praise a lethal mineral that kills thousands of Americans every year? It's unclear. But we do know the biggest producer and exporter of asbestos: Russia. The Russian asbestos producer Uralasbest, which of course has ties to President Putin, even brags about Trump's support. They recently posted a photo of tons of raw asbestos wrapped and ready to export with a seal of approval that read: "Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States."

Given this reality, I am hardly surprised that Trump's EPA is on the brink of giving up this historic opportunity to ban asbestos.

In June, the EPA released its new formulation for how it would regulate asbestos, announcing it would ignore legacy uses of the mineral. This means the EPA will not evaluate the risk from asbestos in our homes, schools, workplaces and already built infrastructure. Our firefighters are left at risk as they become exposed to older infrastructure. The 25.6 million pounds of asbestos that are disposed of each year -- left in landfills near where people live -- will also be ignored in risk evaluation.

Further, the EPA has dangerously decided to limit the scope of their systematic review to only lung cancer and mesothelioma -- which ignores exposures and deaths from ovarian and laryngeal cancers and asbestosis.

Taken together, these limitations dangerously undercalculate the risks posed by asbestos. Recently released emails from career EPA officials confirm this change was shocking -- and is dangerous. One staffer, writing to his colleagues, noted, "The new approach raises significant concerns about the potential health impacts."

Even worse, without a ban, the EPA will continue to allow imports of both raw asbestos and contaminated products -- including crayons and makeup for kids -- letting the millions of tons of asbestos already threatening our health only continue to build up.

Since its peak in the 1970s, asbestos has progressively become so unpopular that only one industry -- a division of the chemical industry that makes chlorine -- continues to use it in the US.

Industry after industry has turned away from asbestos, and not because it is illegal, expensive or difficult to obtain -- it is none of those things. They have stopped using it because the health risks are so great that the liability of continued use is unmanageable. Asbestos has poisoned and kills too many workers, and any manufacturer with half a conscience switched to safer substitutes long ago.

As an EPA attorney recently noted in an email discussing the Trump administration's change of plans, "Asbestos is an extremely dangerous substance with no safe exposure amount."

That's why when it comes to ending the deadly asbestos trade in America, nothing short of an exemption-free ban on imports will suffice. The EPA needs to utilize its power under the TSCA to protect the health of the American people, not the profits of chemical companies and Russian asbestos producers. The time is now for Congress to hold the EPA accountable and demand they do their job.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 22464

Reported Deaths: 942
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin7540565
Ramsey2610103
Stearns198412
Nobles14883
Anoka126259
Dakota118244
Olmsted57510
Washington56230
Kandiyohi4751
Rice4112
Clay40625
Scott3792
Todd2960
Wright2691
Sherburne2192
Mower2161
Carver1852
Benton1692
Steele1480
Martin1265
Blue Earth1221
St. Louis11513
Freeborn970
Pine850
Winona7815
Nicollet747
Carlton730
Cottonwood650
Otter Tail620
Unassigned6110
Goodhue603
Watonwan590
Polk592
Crow Wing571
Itasca537
Chisago501
Dodge460
Chippewa441
Meeker440
Le Sueur431
Morrison400
Douglas390
Jackson390
Becker370
Murray360
Lyon360
Isanti330
McLeod290
Waseca240
Rock210
Swift170
Pennington170
Mille Lacs171
Fillmore171
Wabasha170
Brown142
Faribault130
Beltrami130
Sibley130
Cass122
Norman110
Wilkin113
Kanabec111
Pipestone100
Marshall90
Pope80
Wadena80
Aitkin70
Koochiching70
Yellow Medicine60
Lincoln50
Renville50
Mahnomen51
Red Lake40
Traverse30
Big Stone30
Clearwater30
Redwood30
Grant30
Lac qui Parle30
Houston20
Lake10
Hubbard10
Roseau10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 18342

Reported Deaths: 496
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3876115
Woodbury265831
Black Hawk171343
Linn93876
Marshall87815
Dallas87317
Buena Vista6820
Johnson6058
Muscatine54741
Wapello5384
Crawford4882
Tama40026
Scott34610
Louisa33610
Dubuque33016
Jasper25716
Pottawattamie2277
Sioux2100
Washington1858
Wright1240
Allamakee1194
Plymouth1191
Warren1140
Story961
Poweshiek888
Mahaska888
Bremer676
Henry671
Clinton601
Des Moines581
Boone560
Taylor480
Cedar461
Guthrie443
Clarke400
Benton391
Jones360
Iowa360
Monroe354
Shelby350
Clayton313
Buchanan310
Osceola310
Marion300
Webster291
Hamilton280
Madison261
Fayette260
Monona240
Lee230
Cherokee230
Winneshiek230
Cerro Gordo221
Davis200
Jefferson190
Harrison190
Lyon190
Grundy190
Floyd181
Sac170
Mills160
Hardin150
Butler150
Delaware150
Humboldt140
Ida140
Keokuk140
Hancock140
Appanoose133
Jackson130
Dickinson130
Clay130
Greene130
Howard120
Audubon121
Winnebago110
Cass110
Page100
Van Buren90
Franklin90
Carroll90
Pocahontas90
Chickasaw80
Emmet80
Unassigned80
Kossuth80
Adair70
Adams70
Lucas70
Union60
Montgomery60
Mitchell50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Palo Alto30
Worth30
Calhoun20
Decatur10
Wayne10
Rochester
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 67°
Mason City
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 67°
Albert Lea
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 63°
Austin
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 70°
spotty pop-up showers and storms for Wednesday & Thursday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

IA Evictions and Foreclosures Can Start May 28

Image

Doctor scolds politicos who fail to social distance

Image

MN churches allowed to reopen, how are they adapting

Image

Sean Weather 5/27

Image

City Council supporting outdoor seating

Image

Boys and Girls Club Care Packages

Image

Helping get food on the table

Image

Good news for job seekers in Rochester

Image

Do not delay medical care

Image

Stay safe on the water

Community Events