States Sue U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Demanding Stricter Asbestos Standards

Published October 29, 2019

Ten states and Washington, D.C. sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding it undertake further research concerning risks stemming from the public’s exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos History

Asbestos is family of six naturally occurring silicate minerals used in the construction of various products for more than 4,500 years. Because asbestos is flame and heat resistant, beginning in the mid-19th century, manufacturers began to increasingly  incorporate it into fire-retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cement, heat-, fire-, and acid-resistant gaskets, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, fireproof drywall, flooring, roofing, ships, lawn furniture, drywall joint compound, and in brake linings.

Most companies stopped mining and manufacturing products with asbestos beginning in the mid-1970s, after it was discovered to be carcinogenic and linked to mesothelioma and other types of cancer. In 2016, the U.S. Congress amended the 197l Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to create a process for regulating the substance, allowing its continued use for limited purposes.

Petition Denied, Lawsuit Filed

Led by the Attorneys General (AG) of California, Xavier Becerra (D) and Massachusetts, Maura Healey (D), the AG’s of Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington, D.C. filed a lawsuit against EPA in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in early July after the agency had denied a petition the states had previously filed to collect more data on asbestos.

In the Federal Register notice EPA filed when denying the states’ petition, EPA said it was already aware of all current uses of asbestos, and the essential information needed to assess the risks, so no future study was warranted.

The state AGs disagreed, arguing EPA’s denial was arbitrary and capricious, violating the agency’s TSCA responsibilities.

“Asbestos is a known carcinogen that kills tens of thousands of people every year, yet the Trump administration is choosing to ignore the very serious health risks it poses,” Healey said in a statement upon filing the lawsuit.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.