Chaos within the EPA exposes Americans to toxins like asbestos

Chaos within the EPA exposes Americans to toxins like asbestos
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Three years ago, there was bipartisan euphoria when President Obama signed the Frank L. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (LCSA) into law. The updated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) finally gave the EPA regulatory authority to protect Americans from dangerous toxic substances like asbestos, a known human carcinogen. During the pen signing ceremony, Obama said the much-needed legislation was a crucial step forward, remarking, "The [old] system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn't even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos." 

The ongoing battle for chemical safety reform continues.

For many, President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE’s EPA has been problematic from the get-go. The path for TSCA implementation has and was put in jeopardy when Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule EPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE, former Oklahoma attorney general, was confirmed as the EPA Administrator.

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Met with confrontation, Pruitt’s regulatory rollbacks and ethics violations forced him to resign 12 months after his Senate confirmation. Pruitt wasn’t alone. Many who formerly worked at American Chemistry Council (ACC) now hold high-level EPA positions. Most notably, Nancy Beck, was selected to head the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). Overseeing the toxic chemical unit, Beck carried out Trump’s seeming pro-industry agenda. The revolving doors continue as Beck now heads to the White House's National Economic Council. 

The EPA attempted to ban asbestos in 1989, but was sued by Corrosion Proof Fittings, a company that used asbestos in their products. In 1991, an appeals court overturned the ban, resulting in a failure to ban the deadly chemical through TSCA. 

Nearly 70 countries have already banned asbestos, but sadly, three years after Obama signed LCSA into law, U.S. asbestos imports, use, and deaths continue. Each year, nearly 40,000 Americans die from preventable asbestos-caused diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs). For each life lost, a shattered family is left behind.

For more than a century, asbestos has been confirmed to cause suffering and deaths. The EPA has failed to protect public health and the environment by banning asbestos. Without a ban, asbestos remains lethal and legal today and can be found in consumer products, cosmetics, automotive products, and building materials.

The chlor-alkali industry is the primary asbestos importer and user of raw asbestos for the manufacturing of industrial chlorine and caustic soda. Knowing that there is no safe or controlled use, it’s incredulous that asbestos imports actually surged last year. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the chlor-alkali industry imported 750 metric tons of raw asbestos from Brazil and Russia. 

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The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) fought hard for meaningful chemical reform, and TSCA is on track to fail, again. The EPA’s present asbestos evaluation excludes the risk of asbestos in millions of homes, schools, and offices. Furthermore, industry-friendly rules like the “significant new use” rule (SNUR) is just another attempt to negate asbestos risk. 

Trump has long been fascinated with asbestos, and said once on Twitter, “If we didn't remove incredibly powerful fire retardant asbestos & replace it with junk that doesn't work, the World Trade Center would never have burned down.”

Last summer, ADAO discovered that Uralasbest, a Russian asbestos company, placed a seal with Trump’s face on their product with the note "Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States." 

In order to ban asbestos imports and use without loopholes or exemptions, Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition MORE (D-Ore.), Rep. Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciPelosi, Blumenaur condemn 'egregious abuses of power' by Trump against Oregon protestors Federal agents deployed to Portland did not have training in riot control: NYT US attorney calls for investigation into unmarked federal agents arresting protesters in Oregon MORE (D-Ore), Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Representative Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinPaul Junge wins Michigan GOP primary to challenge Elissa Slotkin Overnight Defense: US formally rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims | House set to consider defense policy bill next week | 57 injured as firefighters battle warship blaze House Democrat warns about 'inaccurate' polls: Trump voters 'fundamentally undercounted' MORE (D-MI) introduced the bicameral Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 (S. 717) and (H.R. 1603), named for my late husband. Numerous Congressional hearings confirmed that the EPA is presently unable to uphold their mission to “protect human health and the environment.”

An asbestos ban from Trump’s EPA is at best, unreliable. Americans are tired of the fox guarding the hen house. It’s time for Congress to pass the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act.

Linda Reinstein is the president and chief executive of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which seeks to eliminate asbestos-caused diseases and protect the rights of asbestos victims.