The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will significantly reduce the criteria in its safety evaluations for asbestos and nine other chemicals based on the amended Toxic Substances Control Act.
In the case of asbestos, the carcinogen that has caused the death of thousands of Americans, the EPA said that it will still evaluate and approve new uses for it. However, the agency will no longer evaluate the health risks from exposure to abandoned asbestos in the environment.
The legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Melanie Benesh, said that Scott Pruitt has again proved he is unfit to be EPA administrator.
The new TSCA law has given the EPA with more authority to ban toxic substances or significantly limit their commercial applications to protect the public, particularly the young children and other susceptible populations, from being exposed to toxic chemicals. Three of the substances under evaluation are:
- 1,4-dioxane, an industrial solvent and
- Methylene chloride and trichloroethylene which are both cancer-causing, neurotoxic solvents.
Benesh said that the “release of these problem formulations further highlights this EPA’s commitment to cooking the books on chemical safety in favor of polluters” and is another proof that Mr. Pruitt is not fit for any position whose job is to protect public health.
For Linda Reinstein, the Co-Founder and President of .Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), Scott Pruitt’s obvious attempt to deceive Americans by saying he’s taking “important, unprecedented action on asbestos’ without banning the chemical is reprehensible.
Reinstein added that EPA’s announcement may seem like a win for asbestos importers and users but they are wrong because ADAO has a lot of evidence to prove the absence of a “safe or controlled use” of the chemical. She sees Pruitt’s actions as a sign of the failure of TSCA reform.
President Obama signed into law in 2016 the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, to strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act. The amended law authorizes EPA to ultimately ban asbestos as well as the other toxic chemicals. However, EPA’s announcement did not consider how Americans are exposed to these chemicals through contaminated drinking water, air, skin care and other consumer products.
Disregarding the various ways that people are exposed to the toxic chemicals will put the young people and those living near factories at more risks.
Pruitt’s EPA is complying with the wishes of the chemical industry by allowing it to continue doing business as usual. The EPA is also giving out signals that it is not likely to restrict or ban even the extremely hazardous chemicals.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and some of the big chemical companies and EPA officials had at least four meetings late last year. They discussed how the agency would regulate asbestos under the amended TSCA statute.
According to Benesh, today’s announcement makes it clear that polluters can ask even the most outrageous favor from Scott Pruitt and it will be granted.
Exposure to asbestos can cause asbestosis, mesothelioma and other diseases that resulted in the death of close to 15,000 Americans each year. However, the U.S. together with a few advanced countries still continues to use the notorious carcinogen.