Posted on October 1, 2018

What a month.  In September, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued two report reports.  On Monday, the EPA OIB issued the report revealing that“Asbestos in Schools Not a Top Priority for EPA.”  The next day, the EPA OIG published the second report revealing that it took seven months for North Carolina officials to contact the EPA after asbestos was identified at a hospital demolition site.

This gross negligence left residents of residents of Statesville, a small Charlotte suburb, feeling like they “were forced to breathe in dangerous asbestos particles for months.”

While the report states that “individuals near the demolition site were at risk of asbestos exposure,” those familiar with asbestos exposure patterns know that passersby were not the only ones endangered. Every member of the construction crew was subjected to continuous, daily exposure. They potentially carried asbestos particles home with them on articles of clothing, further exposing their children and families. This seven month period of inaction engendered a tremendously large window of time for a wide swath of individuals to be exposed to a deadly chemical.

Despite observing piles of debris at the hospital demolition site and suspecting they contain asbestos, North Carolina state personnel did not immediately contact the EPA.

Officials skirted responsibility by pointing to the fine print of municipal codes, , stating they lacked the “statutory mitigation authority,” to act.

While this is unacceptable, their failure to respond can ultimately falls to the EPA. The state admitted that they “did not fully understand” the EPA’s authority to enforce asbestos guidelines.

This report – alongside another released only a day before detailing the failures of the EPA to monitor asbestos in our schools, display a pattern: Americans cannot identify or manage the risk of asbestos. When the risks and dangers of asbestos are unknown, exposure continues. The only way to combat this is to implement a no-exemptions ban on asbestos. It’s time for Congress to keep Americans safe by enforcing its regulations and banning asbestos now.

What may be worse than this failure to protect American lives  is the EPA’s predictable response to the situation: partisan quibbling.

After the school report was released, an EPA spokesperson stated that “the previous administration did not do enough to provide adequate protections to children from asbestos exposure. The Trump administration is taking proactive steps to reduce asbestos exposure, which includes a new proposed regulation that, for the first time, would prohibit the currently unregulated former uses of asbestos.”

In reality, these “proactive steps” have amounted to distorting the law to remove obstacles to chemical regulation, filling the EPA with lobbyists, and – in the case of the President himself – going on record professing his love for asbestos.

These reports not only identify the need for a ban, but clearly show the EPA has done next to nothing to prevent asbestos exposure and spread awareness of the deadly chemical.  

Linda Reinstein
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