Under a settlement reached by a coalition of 11 state Attorneys General, including Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to require the chemical industry to provide the agency with information about the use of asbestos. This important settlement will better protect the public from the significant health risks posed by exposure to highly toxic asbestos.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber used in a variety of construction materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation, as well as in aftermarket automotive brakes and brake linings, and other consumer products. Exposure to asbestos can lead to life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, mesothelioma, and other lung disorders and diseases. Currently, those who import articles that contain asbestos or otherwise manufacture such products, including those products in which asbestos may be present as an unintentional contaminant, are exempt from providing EPA with information about these asbestos-containing products.
“Contrary to what a lot of people may believe, asbestos remains a serious problem today. It is still used in a variety of ways,” said AG Rosenblum. “The public needs to know exactly where and how this incredibly dangerous substance is being used. This settlement closes loopholes and ensures that every company which imports or manufactures products containing asbestos reports it to the EPA.”
The settlement follows a December 2020 ruling from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in favor of the coalition, mandating EPA to impose the reporting requirements on the chemical industry. The Trump Administration’s Department of Justice filed a motion challenging that decision, but today’s settlement—reached with the Biden Administration’s EPA—ensures that EPA will have to act under the Court’s mandate to move forward with the required reporting.
In January 2019, the Attorneys General urged the EPA in a petition under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to issue new regulations to provide data on the importation and use of asbestos in the United States. The coalition asserted that the new set of regulations is needed for the agency to meet its mandate under TSCA to prevent unreasonable risks to health and the environment presented by asbestos. EPA denied the states’ petition and the multistate coalition sued the agency in July 2019, along with a group of NGOs led by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
Today’s settlement, when approved by the Court, will compel EPA to issue the regulations sought in the AGs’ petition and will mark the first time a petition of this kind under TSCA has resulted in court-ordered rulemaking.
In addition to Oregon, this settlement was joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Washington, and the District of Columbia.