Posted on May 15, 2019  

Thursday, May 16, will be an important milestone in our efforts to make sure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a comprehensive, health-protective evaluation on the risks of asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). On the 16th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Seattle will be holding a hearing called “SAFER CHEMICALS, HEALTHY FAMILIES et al. v. U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY et al.” regarding how EPA is interpreting and applying the new requirements in TSCA for assessing the safety of chemicals of concern. The ninth circuit court is one step below the supreme court in the lineage of court levels. 

ADAO is a party to this case and has joined with several environmental and public health organizations to challenge the Trump EPA’s unjustified shortcuts and exclusions in carrying out this mandate. Central to our case is EPA’s refusal to consider the risks presented by exposure to “legacy” asbestos – i.e. asbestos contained in millions of schools, public buildings, residences, commercial establishments and factories as a result of the use of asbestos-containing building materials in construction during the decades after World War II. Legacy asbestos is widely recognized to be a serious danger to workers and the general public, however, currently it is not being safely managed. If the court agrees that EPA has failed to perform its responsibilities under TSCA, the Agency will need to go back to the drawing board and expand its risk evaluation to address this significant public health threat.

The three judges assigned to the case will not issue a ruling during the hearing but may express initial views on how the case should be decided. A decision will likely be issued in the following few months. 

Our efforts don’t stop there. The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now act of 2019 (ARBAN) generated widening bipartisan skepticism of EPA’s TSCA implementation at the first ever U.S. House ban asbestos legislative hearing. Meanwhile, ADAO’s case against EPA over its refusal to require asbestos reporting and its deadly exclusions of several forms asbestos and asbestos related diseases from the scope of its risk analysis continues to move forward.