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: 21315

Reported Deaths: 890
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin7168539
Ramsey243797
Stearns195012
Nobles14692
Anoka121056
Dakota110235
Olmsted56210
Washington52729
Kandiyohi4681
Rice3862
Clay37324
Scott3582
Wright2531
Sherburne2142
Todd2040
Mower1891
Carver1742
Benton1672
Steele1410
Martin1255
Blue Earth1151
St. Louis11113
Freeborn930
Pine850
Winona7815
Carlton730
Nicollet695
Cottonwood640
Otter Tail600
Polk592
Watonwan560
Crow Wing561
Goodhue552
Itasca537
Chisago481
Dodge440
Chippewa420
Meeker420
Le Sueur411
Jackson390
Morrison380
Becker370
Murray350
Lyon340
Douglas290
Isanti280
McLeod270
Waseca250
Unassigned229
Rock210
Mille Lacs171
Fillmore171
Swift160
Wabasha160
Brown122
Beltrami120
Faribault120
Sibley120
Wilkin113
Cass112
Kanabec111
Norman110
Pipestone100
Marshall90
Pennington90
Pope80
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Koochiching60
Yellow Medicine60
Renville50
Mahnomen51
Lincoln50
Clearwater30
Big Stone30
Traverse30
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Redwood30
Grant20
Houston20
Roseau10
Hubbard10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 17533

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3774108
Woodbury262424
Black Hawk168239
Linn93575
Marshall87011
Dallas85714
Johnson6027
Muscatine54539
Wapello5144
Crawford4862
Tama39423
Scott3379
Louisa3347
Dubuque32316
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2430
Pottawattamie2126
Sioux2070
Washington1808
Wright1220
Allamakee1184
Plymouth1160
Warren1110
Story951
Poweshiek888
Mahaska856
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Des Moines551
Boone550
Cedar461
Guthrie433
Taylor390
Benton371
Jones360
Clarke350
Iowa330
Monroe334
Osceola320
Buchanan320
Shelby310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Hamilton260
Fayette260
Monona240
Madison241
Winneshiek230
Lee220
Cerro Gordo221
Davis200
Grundy190
Lyon190
Harrison190
Jefferson180
Floyd181
Mills160
Cherokee160
Butler150
Delaware150
Keokuk140
Greene130
Sac130
Hardin130
Humboldt130
Ida130
Howard120
Jackson120
Appanoose123
Hancock120
Audubon111
Cass110
Van Buren100
Clay100
Page100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Dickinson90
Franklin80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Emmet70
Union70
Kossuth70
Unassigned60
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Adams50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Pocahontas40
Palo Alto30
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur00
Rochester
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 63°
Mason City
Few Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 65°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 64°
Austin
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Storms a brewin'
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Weather 5/25

Image

Honoring Veterans During a Pandemic

Image

Loud Mouth Brass Band spreads cheer to residents in Slattery Park

Image

Finding the silver lining during the pandemic

Image

Will Memorial Day cause a coronavirus spike?

Image

Can you catch Covid-19 from mosquitos?

Image

125 Live Restaurant partnership

Image

Taps in City Park

Image

100 Most traveled days in MN have begun

Image

Parade in the park

Community Events