caution, asbestos

Each year, asbestos claims the lives of about 40,000 Americans while thousands more must endure a lifetime of torment from crippling respiratory diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. [1] However, asbestos is still hardly regulated in the United States. In the past, progress has been made to relieve our society of the fatal substance, but it keeps finding its way into the lungs of Americans.

Recently, two former E.P.A. administrators, Gina McCarthy and William K. Reilley (former 13th administrator and former 6th administrator, respectively) have taken to the press to argue how the United States should ban the deadly chemical to protect its citizens.  The seasoned industry instructors of our environmental classes discuss the reasons why the two former E.P.A. officials argue in favor of the ban on asbestos.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring but toxic mineral that’s resistant to heat, electricity, and corrosion. [2] Pure asbestos acts as an effective insulator and can be found in cloth, paper, cement, plastic, and other materials to make them sturdier.

Is Asbestos Banned in the US?

As of now, there’s no official ban on asbestos in the United States. Despite the signing of the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act in 2016, the E.P.A. under the Trump administration has been dragging its feet in addressing the exposures to toxic chemicals.  “We can say unequivocally that this struggle will not end anytime soon unless Congress passes the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Act (ARBAN),” wrote McCarthy and Reilly.[3] “This bill is advancing in the House of Representatives and, in the coming days, the Energy and Commerce Committee will have an opportunity to send it to the House floor for passage with bipartisan support.”

Why Is Asbestos Not Banned in the United States?

Thirty years ago, the E.P.A. established a decade’s worth of legislation-efforts that would drive the ban on asbestos within seven years under the Toxic Substances Control Act or T.S.C.A. However, the T.S.C.A. was countered with a lawsuit filed by the powerful asbestos industry and was overturned by a federal appeals court in 1991. [4]

“That decision cut the legs out from under the E.P.A.’s ability to regulate all but the few asbestos-containing products that fell outside the scope of the industry lawsuit,” McCarthy and Reilly went on. “It also set a precedent that was used by a variety of industries to block the agency from regulating other chemicals like phthalate esters, formaldehyde, and methylene chloride that were known to pose risks to human health and the environment.” [3]

How Is Asbestos Regulated?

As previously stated, the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act passed in 2016 gave the E.P.A. the jurisdiction to conduct risk-based chemical assessments, evaluate current chemicals and enforceable deadlines, receive funding to perform responsibilities under the new law, and to increase public awareness on chemical information. [5]

The Trump E.P.A. has not only failed to establish the ban on asbestos but by only assessing the risks of asbestos while deliberately overlooking the crucial pathways of exposure and uses, they are clearly not operating at the standards delineated in the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act. “For example,” McCarthy and Reilly wrote, “the agency refused to address asbestos that remains installed in millions of homes from construction materials used in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.” [3] The former E.P.A. administrators went on to state how the current E.P.A. does not consider the asbestos exposure to firefighters when they enter burning buildings or asbestos contamination found in children’s products.

Asbestos is a deadly toxin that should be taken seriously, so if you’re concerned about finding asbestos in your home or would like to become a certified and professional asbestos handler, contact our team at The Safety Group by calling 212-933-9071 in New York or 215-475-5810 in Philadelphia today.





[1] Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization – ADAO Announces New Findings that Show Asbestos-Related Deaths Estimated at More than Double Previously Reported in the United States

[2] – Asbestos: What is Asbestos and How Does It Cause Cancer

[3] The New York Times – Asbestos Kills Nearly 40,000 Americans a Year. Ban It.

[4] Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization – EPA’s Failure to Ban Asbestos

[5] United States Environmental Protection Agency – The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act