Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Contractor Publishes Final Version of Study Calling for Banning Asbestos

(From NYCOSH Update on Safety and Health)

The final version of the report, “Asbestos Strategies: Findings and Recommendations on the Use and Management of Asbestos,” prepared by a non-profit think tank under a contract with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was published last week.

The report concludes that the federal government should ban all importation and use of asbestos and do a better job of enforcing the laws that are supposed to protect people from the deadly mineral.

An earlier draft of the report, which was leaked three weeks ago, was the subject of several news articles, including one in the last issue of the Update on Safety and Health. Some occupational health activists expressed a concern that the final report would not be as critical of government policies as the leaked draft.

But the final report, which uses many different formulations and phrases from the draft, is substantively the same.

Among the points the final report makes

  • clearly defined legislative ban on the production, manufacture, distribution and importation of products with commercially-added asbestos is the most direct means to address concerns about remaining health risk”;

  • “A federal process should be undertaken promptly to clarify the definition of ‘asbestos’” to include the unregulated “asbestiform” minerals that belong to the same mineral group as asbestos, but are not considered to be asbestos because they have no commercial use;

  • “EPA, OSHA, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and state regulators should focus on more stringent, predictable, and consistent enforcement of these existing [asbestos] regulations. . . . such an effort must continue for the long term. . . . [including] any step that EPA and OSHA can take to encourage enforcement of existing regulations at the local level.;

  • “A national mesothelioma registry is necessary. . . to evaluate the effects of asbestos exposure”;

  • “EPA and OSHA should consult with each other and leading scientists to obtain the best sense of the science [of assessing the health risk of exposure to asbestos] and then employ education and outreach to provide reliable risk information about potential risks to the regulated community and the public. Commentators indicate that following the World Trade Center attacks federal agencies may have underestimated the risks out of concern over a public overreaction to perceived risk. A backlash followed inside and outside some agencies, which may have overstated the actual risks.”