Asbestos, a carcinogen responsible for thousands of American deaths annually, has often been found in consumer products like makeup, children’s toys and talcum powder. Yet, no one has been tracking asbestos use in consumer products to ensure the public is adequately warned.
An important step toward better oversight of asbestos-containing products took place recently thanks to the leadership of the independent nonprofit, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), and several state attorneys general.
In a settlement reached between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a coalition of 10 states, the District of Columbia and several advocacy groups, including ADAO, the EPA has agreed to require chemical-industry companies to provide information about their usage of asbestos and their import of raw asbestos and products that contain asbestos.
The settlement, which was reached on June 7, 2021, in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, comes after a December 2020 ruling in the same court, in which the EPA was ordered by Judge Edward Chen to require chemical industry companies to report asbestos use and imports under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
Later in 2020, under former President Trump, the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to appeal the court’s decision in that ruling, prompting the coalition to file a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to meet the requirements as stipulated by law.
The June 7 agreement will require chemical-industry companies to report all imports of raw asbestos and articles and mixtures containing asbestos. It also requires companies to provide details on how asbestos-containing materials are used and/or processed in the United States.
ADAO played a lead role in the lawsuit and was instrumental in getting these new asbestos rules adopted. The case is Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization v. EPA, No. 19-CV-00871. Simmons Hanly Conroy is proud to be a consecutive platinum sponsor of the ADAO, having donated a cumulative total of more than $1 million over the past decade.
Landmark Asbestos Settlement Reached With Biden EPA
Since its founding in 2004, the ADAO has fought for more stringent regulations on asbestos in an effort toward a full ban in the United States. Each year, asbestos kills over 40,000 Americans from diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, among others.
While imports of raw asbestos are usually recorded, for decades, the importation of asbestos-containing products and the use of asbestos within the United States has gone unreported. As a result, the threat of asbestos was effectively invisible to the general public.
The settlement agreement reached between the EPA and the coalition led by ADAO, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Rob Bonta ends a protracted legal battle under Section 21 of the TSCA, which many advocacy groups argued failed to protect the public from the health hazards of asbestos.
In a statement, ADAO President and Co-Founder Linda Reinstein said, “This is a huge win for public health. The lack of reporting on asbestos has been a gaping hole in EPA’s efforts to protect Americans from exposure to this lethal carcinogen. We’ve always said that we can’t protect Americans from asbestos if we don’t know where it is.”
Speaking to the health threats posed to American citizens, AG Healey echoed Reinstein’s thoughts: “Asbestos is a known carcinogen that kills tens of thousands of people every year, and the Trump Administration inexplicably chose to ignore the very serious health risks it poses for our residents.”
The legal victory — and the Biden EPA’s willingness to now follow the court-ordered mandate — marks a major departure from previous legal challenges posed by the Trump EPA. Expressing her gratitude to the Biden Administration, Attorney General Healey said,
“We’re grateful to the Biden Administration for reaching this groundbreaking settlement that will ensure EPA holds the chemical industry accountable and provides the agency with the information it needs to protect workers, families, and children from this toxic material.”
According to AG Healey, the settlement marks the first time a petition filed against the revised TSCA has resulted in new laws.
‘A Huge Win for Public Health’
Under the new rules, the coalition, led by the ADAO, Massachusetts and California, can request a return to Court to ensure the EPA complies with the mandate if the agency fails to meet the deadlines proposed in the schedule.
In the landmark settlement, the ADAO was joined by the American Public Health Association (APHA), Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Environmental Health Strategies Center (EHSC), Environmental Working Group (EWG), and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF).