In spite of countless countries that have outright bans on asbestos and the increase in mesothelioma diagnoses, the United States is steadfast in its refusal to prohibit the importing of the dangerous mineral. With asbestos considered one of ten high-priority chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seemed to be resistant in providing any meaningful information on imports.
The agency whose mission is to ensure public health denied inquiries by state and public health advocacy groups to increase data-sharing in 2018. Those entities filed suit in federal court to require the EPA to secure data on these imports to assess risks of possible exposure.
A federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, citing severe gaps in the data that prevented accurate findings and demanding the agency address “information-gathering deficiencies.” The decision forces the EPA to stop violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and collect import-related data in adherence to their own Chemical Data Reporting rule.
The entities that prevailed in this decision have long challenged the EPA’s approach in asbestos assessments. The agency told chemical manufacturers that the mineral imports were exempt due to its “naturally occurring chemical substances.”
The EPA’s compliance is welcome news. However, the ongoing delays may be too little and too late for those exposed to asbestos. The agency’s refusal to act only increases the chance of exposure, particularly in older buildings with construction materials. The end result of an agency dragging their feet could be multiple mesothelioma diagnoses.