Court orders EPA to step up asbestos data collection

Court orders EPA to step up asbestos data collection
© Getty Images

In a court ruling hailed by health advocates, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will now have to collect data on asbestos imports into the U.S., a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

Health advocates have argued that the years-old regulations didn’t give the agency enough data to sufficiently evaluate asbestos risks to the public.

“We think that this is a public health disaster that EPA hasn’t done their job,” said Linda Reinstein, co-founder and president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which advocates for banning the substance, in a statement after the ruling.

ADVERTISEMENT

Health risks linked to asbestos exposure include lung cancer, mesothelioma and a lung disease called asbestosis. Asbestos is largely used by the chemicals industry, though Reinstein's group says it has identified a number of household products containing the substance, including toys and a type of duct tape.

The EPA in 2018 denied a request by advocacy groups to expand the asbestos information it gathers. The agency said at the time that through its research and stakeholder outreach, it believes it "is aware of all ongoing uses of asbestos and already has the information."

Judge Edward Chen, an Obama appointee, disagreed, writing this week that asbestos-containing products that the agency identified during the rulemaking process “appear to be only the tip of the iceberg.”

He argued that gaps in the agency’s information make it so that the models it uses to evaluate the risk of asbestos don’t have the ability to “make accurate assessments that capture all ‘reasonably available’ data.”

Agency data is used in its rulemaking regarding asbestos.

Last year, the EPA promulgated a rule that it said would limit uses of the substance; critics questioned why the agency didn’t pursue an outright ban.

Asked about the court decision, an EPA spokesperson said Wednesday that the agency was reviewing the ruling.

Chen's decision requires the agency to alter its Chemical Data Reporting rule to "address the information-gathering deficiencies."