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Federal Judge Allows EPA Asbestos Reporting Lawsuit to Proceed

A federal judge in San Francisco recently allowed a lawsuit to continue against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleging the agency fails to properly track how much deadly asbestos is imported, manufactured, and otherwise used in products in the United States. Several advocacy groups filed the asbestos lawsuit against the EPA in February 2019, challenging the agencies decision to allow certain exemptions to reporting rules for asbestos products, and the agency’s decision to deny a petition to impose stricter reporting requirements on companies dealing in asbestos.

“EPA has greatly overstated its knowledge of asbestos use and exposure in the United States,” the advocacy groups, now plaintiffs, wrote in a letter to the EPA back in January 2019 in which they urged the agency to reconsider its decision. “This decision gives us the green light to press ahead with our suit to hold EPA accountable for refusing to require simple and straightforward reporting by the asbestos industry,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, one of the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit against the EPA.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the American Public Health Association, the Center for Environmental Health, the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. A spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group released a statement saying “EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s efforts to keep the public in the dark about where and how asbestos is being used in this country is antithetical to what the American people should expect from the head of the EPA.”

Enacted in 2011, the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule mandates that companies reports the levels of asbestos in their products but in July 2017, the EPA issued and exemption to the Occidental Chemical Corporation, which uses asbestos to make chlorine and other products. Also in 2017, the EPA issued a scoping document identifying asbestos containing products which the plaintiffs’ lawsuits claimed actually provides very little, if any, information on how much asbestos is in said products. In 2018, the plaintiffs filed a petition to close the loopholes and subsequently filed a formal federal lawsuit once that petition was denied.

Once used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and military applications for its heat resistant properties, asbestos has been effectively banned since the 1970s thanks to congressional action. However, even to this day there exist loopholes for companies to import and otherwise use asbestos despite its known health risks, including victims developing mesothelioma. The disease is a rare and deadly form of lung cancer for which there is no cure and is estimated to affect thousands of people every year.

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