August 16, 2018 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 0Comment

A political appointee at the EPA says she was “completely confused” by press accounts that her office was easing rules on asbestos. Nancy Beck, the acting chief of EPA chemical programs, says that people are misinterpreting what EPA wants to do. It’s a “good news story,” Beck says, because companies that want to use an asbestos product—such as one that has been discontinued—would first have to notify EPA of their plan.The agency would then have 90 days to evaluate whether the asbestos-containing product poses an unreasonable risk.

I don’t think Beck should be confused by the public’s reaction. After all, EPA’s proposal is called “significant new uses of asbestos.” In EPA lingo, it’s a SNUR.

Public health and environmental groups (e.g., here, here, here) sent comments to EPA on the asbestos SNUR, explaining what’s wrong with it. One objection, for example, is that the proposal exempts eight different uses of asbestos from the notification requirement.

Besides comments from organizations, more than 2,200 individuals also shared their views with the EPA. This sample gives you the gist of the public’s views on the asbestos SNUR. Far from confused, these individuals are very clear about what they think EPA should do about asbestos.

James Morgan wrote:

Asbestos needs to be banned in the USA please! I’m sitting in hospice right now watching my sister (and godmother) slowly and painfully die. Her name is Geralyn A Morgan. She was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma two years ago. Geralyn is the most dedicated school teacher and only 64 years young. She will leave a huge void in the world. Please do not let her die in vain!

Glenda Stockwell of Bedford, IA wrote:

OMGoodness! How can the government even consider allowing the increased use of asbestos in our society??  My father died a painful and preventable death as a result of mesothelioma. He was exposed to asbestos during his Navy service and also the first long held non-service job. My Dad lived to be only 69 years old. He missed seeing many of his great grandchildren and he left my Mom alone for over 20+ years.

This is a plea from one of the ‘little people’ of this country — do not allow those whose economic situations force them to be in hard labor jobs and be exposed to carcinogens. Science has determined that these [disease] links exist and alternative materials [to asbestos] have been found. It is the responsibility of the government to enforce the protection of people over profits!

Christine F Patterson of Naperville, IL wrote:

Who will be the financial beneficiaries of the re-introduction and use once again of asbestos? Who is pushing for this? Terrible idea.

Francis Parker wrote:

This proposal is just too wonky! Just eliminate all new uses, installation, manufacture or importation of asbestos or asbestos products. Since WWII families, business, schools, churches, hospitals and many other industries have suffered because of asbestos-related deaths and health issues. It’s time to eliminate its use once and for all. No excuses.

Christine Stay of Marietta, SC wrote:

The new use rule for asbestos is completely unnecessary. Our nation does not need to use more asbestos. It does not help our economy, in fact it provides additional drain on our economic resources in treating the additional cancers it will cause. Asbestos causes cancer. There is no new evidence to the contrary. Have we suddenly decided that more cancer is acceptable?

D. Scott Cunningham of Albuquerque, NM wrote:

This proposed change in rules by the EPA is incredibly negligent on behalf of the agency. …During my career in the design and construction industry as an architect, contractor, construction manager and owner’s representative I have watched my clients spend literally tens of millions of dollars to abate asbestos from their buildings to make those buildings safer for human occupants. This proposed EPA rule change is an ignorant step back in time…

Debbie Thacker wrote:

Asbestos is a KNOWN carcinogen, proven FACT, (I know it’s the F word for this administration). Banning its use completely should be a no brainer. The fact that we have to debate this is very disappointing. ….Oh, and by the way, Climate Change and Global Warming are real, too.

Eleanor Mattice wrote:

Please DO NOT allow the use of asbestos again. We know it is harmful.  …Is the new ruling because Russia is the biggest exporter of asbestos?

Heidi Perryman of Martinez, CA wrote:

As the child and wife of an electrical worker, whose seen countless husbands and fathers die of asbestosis, it is horrific and shocking that these new rules would even be proposed. … I would be happy to introduce you to several widows and orphans that can explain it.

The comment period on EPA’s proposed asbestos SNUR closed on August 10. Not all of the comments have been posted in the on-line docket. I’ll be very interested to see who, if anyone, thinks it’s a good idea to set up a system to allow new uses of asbestos.

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