The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is exercising their new authority under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the outdated (and ineffective) Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). EPA named the first ten priority chemicals for assessment and is tasked with evaluating these chemicals to ensure there is not an unreasonable risk of injury to health. In determining risk, EPA is required to consider vulnerable populations including: workers, infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Over the next ten days, the NJ Work Environment Council (WEC) will be highlighting the chemicals in a series of blog posts with information on how to make your voice heard and tell your story about chemical exposure.
Chemical One of Ten: Asbestos
Asbestos was once called the “magic mineral” because its microscopic fibers are indestructible. Although it causes a deadly lung disease and cancer, hundreds of millions of tons of asbestos were used in construction material and consumer products in the U.S. Workers involved in building maintenance, renovation and demolition can be exposed to asbestos, in particular in buildings constructed prior to 1980 when the chemical was used more widely.
Some automotive brakes and clutches contain asbestos so workers involved in repairing or replacing those parts on vehicles can be exposed to it.
Workers may unknowingly carry asbestos fibers home on their clothing and their family can be exposed to it. When an individual is exposed to asbestos, the fibers are embedded deep in their body where lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis could develop decades later.
Examples of asbestos containing products in the United States include:
- Cement corrugated sheet
- Cement flat sheet
- Pipeline wrap
- Roofing felt
- Vinyl floor tile
- Cement shingle
- Cement pipe
- Automatic transmission components
- Clutch facings
- Friction materials
- Disk brake pads
- Drum brake linings
- Brake blocks
- Non-roofing coatings
- Roof coatings
Asbestos Banned, Not so Fast
Asbestos is banned in 58 nations, but the United States is NOT one of them. In 1989, the EPA issued an Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule. In 1991, this regulation was challenged fiercely by industry and overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Make Your Voice Heard
EPA is soliciting public comments on the hazards of asbestos. Maybe now more than ever with the impending appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, it’s important that we submit stories to make the case of the harmful effects of asbestos on public health.
Do you have a story about exposure to asbestos you want to share with the EPA?
There are two ways to do it:
For Worker Exposure Stories:
WEC is working with national partners, including the United Steelworkers, BlueGreen Alliance, and National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, to collect first-hand accounts from workers or unions representing workers either producing or using these chemicals.
Examples of useful data include: worker and union direct testimony, published studies, government data, medical and workers’ compensation records, and any other documentation that illustrates the occupational uses, exposures, and health impacts of these chemicals.
Our partners have developed an online questionnaire to collect this data. Participation in the questionnaire can be anonymous and the deadline to participate is Friday, February 24, 2017.
All Other Stories:
You can submit comments directly at regulations.gov, Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0736.