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December 01, 2016 11:30 PM
US EPA Moves to Ban Asbestos

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken the first steps in administration action to ban asbestos and 9 other chemicals. Despite decades of knowledge of the harmful and fatal consequences of human exposure to asbestos, a know carcinogen, asbestos use has not as yet been banned from use in the US.

 

Asbestos is causally linked to human medical conditions such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.Occupational exposure to asbestos fiber has resulted in decades of litigation as exposed workers, their families and survivors, have fought to obtain benefits.

 

In today’s announcement, the US EPA takes the first step in the administrative process to ban asbestos. 

 

“Today, EPA is announcing the first ten chemicals it will evaluate for potential risks to human health and the environment under TSCA reform.

 

“Under the new law, we now have the power to require safety reviews of all chemicals in the marketplace.” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator of the of Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We can ensure the public that we will deliver on the promise to better protect public health and the environment.”

 

The first ten chemicals to be evaluated are: 

1,4-Dioxane

1-Bromopropane

Asbestos

Carbon Tetrachloride

Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster

Methylene Chloride

N-methylpyrrolidone

Pigment Violet 29

Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene

Trichloroethylene

 

"Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, requires EPA to publish this list by December 19, 2016. These chemicals were drawn from EPA’s 2014 TSCA Work Plan, a list of 90 chemicals selected based on their potential for high hazard and exposure as well as other considerations.

 

"When the list is published in the Federal Register it will trigger a statutory deadline to complete risk evaluations for these chemicals within three years.  This evaluation will determine whether the chemicals present an unreasonable risk to humans and the environment. If it is determined that a chemical presents an unreasonable risk, EPA must mitigate that risk within two years.

Under the newly amended law, EPA must release a scoping document within six months for each chemical. This will include the hazard(s), exposure(s), conditions of use, and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation(s) the agency plans to consider for the evaluation.

 

"Additional chemicals will be designated for evaluation, and all of the remaining Work Plan chemicals will be reviewed for their potential hazard and exposure. For each risk evaluation that EPA completes, TSCA requires that EPA begin another. By the end of 2019, EPA must have at least 20 chemical risk valuations ongoing at any given time.

 

"For more on the chemicals listed and additional information: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/evaluating-risk-existing-chemicals-under-tsca

 

Asbestos-related disease was reported in industry more than 90 years ago. In 1924, Dr. Cooke in England reported the case of a woman who died of severe lung scarring after having spent 20 years in a textile factory weaving asbestos. Various studies have been conducted over the years concerning the inhalation of asbestos dust and its relationship to asbestosis, increased rates of cancer and mesothelioma. 

 

The unfortunate legacy of asbestos-related disease has remained a problem of huge proportions not only for New Jersey's Workers' Compensation System, but also for the nation as a whole.  Asbestos fiber still remains prevalent in work environments throughout the nation.  Equipment containing asbestos remains in use, and buildings containing asbestos fiber require maintenance, repair, encapsulation and/or removal. The long latency periods for asbestos-related disease (10 to 50 years) has further complicated the ability to estimate projections for the future. Gelman, Jon, L. “Asbestos Related Disease,” § 9.20, NJ Workers’ Compensation Law 3rd Ed. (West-Thomson-Reuters) 2016.

 

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History of Asbestos and the Law

January 2, 2001….Asbestos-related disease was reported in industry more than 70 years ago. Dr. H. Montague Murray in 1906 at the Charing Cross Hospital in London testified before a governmental commission inquiry about occupational disability that he had seen a man in 1898 who was very short of breath and who had worked in an asbestos factory. The man's lungs at autopsy were badly scarred. It was Dr. Murray's prediction that since the hazards of this exposure were now known, very few similar cases would occur in the future, and there was no need to provide compensation benefits. 

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