18 State Attorneys General Urge House To Ban Asbestos
The attorneys general of 18 states sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging them to support H.R. 1603, also known as the “Reinstein Bill,” which would prohibit the distribution, processing and manufacturing of asbestos in the United States.
The bill would essentially reinstate the asbestos ban which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instituted 30 years ago. That ban was lifted by Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.
The letter expresses a desire to protect Americans from asbestos, noting that there is no safe exposure level to asbestos, which is known to be carcinogenic and is around us everywhere in our environment. The letter says asbestos takes 15,000 lives per year and is linked to mesothelioma, a rare and extremely deadly type of cancer with no known cure. The letter also mentions asbestos being linked to lung cancer and asbestosis.
The letter says the ban is necessary because of the EPA’s actions since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was amended in 2016. The TSCA was passed in 1976 and regulated the introduction of chemicals into the marketplace. The 2016 amendment mandated that the EPA evaluate existing chemicals against a risk-based safety standard and eliminate any unreasonable risks they find. The letter argues the ban is necessary since the EPA has not adequately followed through with their new obligations under the 2016 amendment.
The letter says the EPA has wrongly excluded exposure to asbestos currently in place in our environment from its asbestos risk evaluation and has relied on incomplete information for its evaluation of asbestos risk. The letter also points out the risk created by the EPA’s recently published Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) regarding asbestos, which provides a pathway for the EPA to allow the use of asbestos in the future. The letter says the SNUR is essentially the EPA declaring that some asbestos use is safe and that they refuse to ban it.
“EPA’s recent actions demonstrate that the agency cannot be relied on to take the necessary steps to address the unthinkable risks asbestos poses to our health and environment,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
The letter acknowledges that the chlor-alkali industry in the U.S. may need an additional, reasonable amount of time to adopt to an asbestos ban compared to the rest of the country, noting that only one plant in the European Union still uses asbestos diaphragms to produce chlorine.