The newest risk evaluation for asbestos released by EPA

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on April 19th, 2021

At the beginning of 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency released the first part of their ultimate risk assessment for asbestos, which involves chrysotile asbestos. The agency found that asbestos poses unreasonable health risks to workers who are still using this mineral under various conditions.

Asbestos is one of the first 10 chemicals under evaluation for potential health and environmental risks under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This act was signed into law on June 22, 2016, and amends the Toxic Substances Control Act, the primary chemicals management law of the United States. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which received bipartisan support in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, refers to major improvements such as a mandatory requirement for the Environmental Protection Agency to assess existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines, chemical assessments based on risk, increased public transparency for chemical information and consistent source of funding for the agency to perform the responsibilities under the law.

The first part of the final evaluation of the Environmental Protection Agency on chrysotile asbestos states that this naturally occurring mineral poses unreasonable risk to workers involved in numerous operations, including:

  • processing and industrial use of asbestos diaphragms in the chlor-alkali industry
  • processing and industrial use of sheet gaskets that contain asbestos in chemical production
  • industrial use and disposal of brake blocks that contain asbestos in the oil industry
  • commercial use and disposal of aftermarket automotive brakes and lining that contain asbestos, other vehicle friction products, and gaskets that contain the mineral

According to the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Environmental Protection Agency must address risks by proposing regulatory actions such as training, certification, restricted access, or ban of commercial use within one year and subsequently accept public comment on any proposals. The second part of the risk assessment of asbestos of the agency is currently in development and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that it will be released around the middle of this year. It will focus on legacy uses and disposals of asbestos, which the agency defines as "conditions of use for which manufacture, processing, and distribution of commerce no longer occur, but where use and disposal are still known, intended or reasonably foreseen to occur".

However, in a press release, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization believes that the approach of the Environmental Protection Agency on the issue of asbestos is incomplete, noting that the agency omits five other types of asbestos in their first part of the risk assessment and that it also fails to address known health problems caused by asbestos exposure such as asbestosis and ovarian cancer. Furthermore, the first part "is based on grossly incomplete information about current asbestos exposure and use", according to the nonprofit organization.

What are the findings of the first part of the risk assessment of asbestos of EPA?

During the first part of the evaluation of the risks of asbestos use and exposure, the Environmental Protection Agency reviewed 32 conditions of use for chrysotile asbestos, the only form of asbestos known to be imported, processed, or distributed for use in the United States, including in manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, occupational and consumer uses and disposal. The first part of the risk assessment for asbestos contains the final determinations of the agency on what conditions of use pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment based on a solid review of the scientific findings. These are the findings of the agency with regard to chrysotile asbestos:

  • the agency found no unreasonable risks to the environment from any conditions of use
  • the agency found unreasonable risks to human health for uses of chrysotile asbestos

With regard to consumers and bystanders, the Environmental Protection Agency found unreasonable risks to them from all consumer uses of chrysotile asbestos. Nevertheless, the majority of products that contain this type of asbestos have been discontinued so that the risk of coming to struggle with diseases as a result of exposure is lower. The only products with chrysotile asbestos that are currently allowed to be manufactured in the country are aftermarket automotive brakes and linings and certain gaskets.

As for workers and occupational non-users, the chrysotile asbestos uses for which the agency found an unreasonable risk to workers refer to chlor-alkali diaphragms, sheet gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products, and other gaskets. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency found unreasonable risks to workers in close proximity but not in direct contact with chrysotile asbestos for the use of chlor-alkali diaphragms, sheet gaskets, brake blocks, and other gaskets.

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Although the legal process is quite complex and tedious, it will require minimal involvement on your part, as we are aware that victims of asbestos exposure are usually in great physical and emotional pain. The only documents we will need from you are your employment and medical records, which will be used as evidence to support your asbestos claim. Eventually, you will receive the maximum compensation you qualify for from the liable companies if you decide to work with our law firm. For additional information, please feel free to contact us and we will gladly answer your questions.