Health Experts Criticize EPA’s Asbestos Draft Risk EvaluationJune 2, 2020
Doctors, scientists and occupational health experts from across the country are openly criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent asbestos draft risk evaluation.
At a virtual press conference arranged by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization last week, speakers labeled the asbestos evaluation inadequate and in need of serious revision.
The year-long evaluation was required as part of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was passed in 2016. It amended the original Toxic Substances Control Act, the country’s primary chemicals management law.
“I am concerned that the draft has serious omissions and does not reflect the full magnitude of the dangers of asbestos exposure,” said Dr. Jacqueline Moline, a specialist in occupational and environmental medicine at Hofstra University/Northwell Health in New York.
The EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals will review the draft during meetings June 8-11. It is the next step toward the final risk evaluation of asbestos, the ninth of the first 10 substances and chemicals to undergo increased scrutiny as part of the amended TSCA.
The EPA will then have the option of proposing regulations to further prohibit or limit the use, manufacture, processing or distribution of the toxic mineral. It also could recommend an outright ban of asbestos.
The Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals review was originally scheduled for April 27-30, but was delayed by the all-consuming COVID-19 pandemic.
A panel of experts at the press conference filed recommendations to the EPA as part of the public input that will be a component of the review.
“The agency’s draft risk evaluation is incomplete, and its assumptions inappropriate,” said Dr. Celeste Monforton, a professor at Texas State University and member of the American Public Health Association.
EPA Finds Asbestos Products Pose Unreasonable Risk
The EPA’s original draft risk evaluation, which was completed in March, looked at 33 conditions of asbestos use.
It found “unreasonable risk to workers, occupational non-users, consumers and bystanders” in the limited number of asbestos products still being imported and used today.
The draft cited asbestos diaphragms in the chloralkali industry, asbestos brake blocks in the oil industry, asbestos-containing sheet gaskets in chemical production, asbestos-containing brake linings in the automobile aftermarket, automobile friction products and commercial use of asbestos-containing gaskets.
“I’m delighted that the EPA has found most of the conditions of use present an unreasonable risk,” said Brent Kynoch, managing director of the Environmental Information Association in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “Amazing, because the EPA did everything possible in the development of the risk evaluation to underestimate and downplay the risk of exposure. But numbers don’t lie. Asbestos is a killer.”