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EPA Names Asbestos Priority for Evaluation under New Law

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a news release in which it named asbestos as one of the first 10 chemicals it will review under a new amendment to federal law. The safety review will consider chemical risks to the environment and to human health, according to the release.

The First List of 10 Chemicals

To get an idea of the kinds of substances making this first list along with asbestos, other substances on the list to be evaluated for human and environmental risk include:

  • Perchloroethylene, known as PERC, a dangerous chemical traditionally used in dry cleaning
  • Methylene chloride, a liquid industrial solvent that can cause cancer
  • Trichloroethylene or TCE, another liquid used as a solvent and in certain commercial products like paint and spot removers, known to be harmful while organs are developing and to the nervous system
  • And others

The Lautenberg Law

The Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA was amended in 2016 by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The law required the EPA to publish last week's list by December 19, 2016. The chemicals considered were those on a list of 90 highly hazardous substances.

The news release explains that the agency will have six months to release a "scoping document" for each chemical explaining how EPA will measure risk for that particular substance. EPA has three years to complete its evaluations. If a chemical is found to "present an unreasonable risk to humans and the environment," the agency then will have two years to address and reduce the risk of danger from that substance.

Reportedly, when an evaluation is completed, EPA must start another one, until by the end of 2019, there must be 20 or more risk evaluations underway at all times.

Advocates for the victims of asbestos exposure will watch the risk evaluation process with keen interest, since many have long pushed for a full U.S. asbestos ban.

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