According to The Hill, on Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new rule that will limit the use of asbestos in the U.S. Critics say the rule is only a half measure that could actually result in the reintroduction of some asbestos products to the market.
The EPA says the new rule will close a loophole from another law that stood in the way of the agency restricting the sale of certain asbestos products.
“Today, we are following the laws Congress gave us to close the door on certain asbestos products to prevent them from returning to the marketplace without EPA’s review,” Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a release. She refers to a law that allowed the EPA to prohibit asbestos.
Some are arguing that the review process could allow 15 uses of the substance to be reintroduced to the market. Others wonder why the agency didn’t just ban asbestos outright.
The new rule dictates that manufacturers need to notify and seek approval from the EPA before using asbestos in certain cases.
“To think that any company would willingly attempt to resurrect these 15 obsolete asbestos uses is ludicrous. That EPA would enable it is unconscionable,” the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization said in a statement.
As of now, asbestos is not banned by the federal government, although it is almost never used in ways that would expose people to it. Asbestos can cause illnesses such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
“This new rule makes it more difficult for industry to resume some abandoned uses of asbestos, but that is a half step at best,” Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group, said. An outright ban “is the only way the public can trust industry will never again be able to use this dangerous material that has literally killed tens of thousands of Americans.”
Some EPA career staff questioned why the agency didn’t ban asbestos when the rule was being developed last spring.
“This new approach allows asbestos-containing products that are not currently used to be used in the future,” Mark Seltzer, an attorney in the EPA’s enforcement office, told his colleagues in emails reported on by The New York Times in August. “Many manufacturers have stopped using asbestos in their products but would be allowed to through this.”
The EPA responded to criticism by saying they were being unfairly portrayed as allowing asbestos to reenter the market.
“If someone wants to start the manufacturing and processing, if we find risk, we can prevent it,” said Nancy Beck, principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This is a very good story for public health protection.”
Trump’s own words have also increased skepticism about the intentions of the EPA.
“If we didn't remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn't work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down,” he tweeted in 2012.
Read the full story here.