EPA Finally Admits Asbestos Presents an “Unreasonable” Health Risk
In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally designated asbestos as a chemical targeted for risk evaluation. A recent release by the agency in June 2022 was the final scope of Part 2 of this risk evaluation, performed under the Toxic Substance Control Act, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. Notably, the EPA concludes for the first time that asbestos – a known human carcinogen – presents an “unreasonable” health risk to workers under certain conditions. The EPA has a deadline of December 1, 2024, to complete and publish the risk evaluation.
At Belluck & Fox, we are watching the EPA’s efforts carefully to conduct this risk evaluation in good faith and to ensure that the public knows just how dangerous asbestos can be. Asbestos exposure and its associated health risks – the sole cause of mesothelioma cancer – are not topics that we take lightly. While we believe this risk evaluation is a long overdue measure by the EPA, we are encouraged to see that their evaluation intends to cover a broad range of important issues pertaining to asbestos exposure, particularly in the area of legacy uses.
Part 1 of this evaluation was published in December 2022, and the first two of three installments of Part 2 were published in January 2021 and January 2022, respectively. In Part 1 of the risk evaluation, the agency concluded that chrysotile asbestos poses an “unreasonable” risk to human health after reviewing 32 conditions of use. The dangers of asbestos are posed to consumers, bystanders, occupational non-users, and workers in both direct and indirect contact with asbestos. The scope of Part 1 was limited to chrysotile asbestos since it is “the only form of asbestos known to be imported, processed, or distributed for use in the United States, including in manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, occupational and consumer uses, and disposal,” according to the EPA.
Part 2 of the risk evaluation centers on legacy uses of asbestos and its disposal, as well as describing previous asbestos uses, avenues of exposure, and impacted populations of that exposure. Due to this shift in focus, the use and presence of talc and five other types of asbestos fibers were included and addressed, in addition to chrysotile asbestos mentioned in Part 1. Construction materials would be evaluated as a legacy use due to their exceptionally high prevalence and opportunities for exposure. Talc is still found in many consumer products produced and used today, either as a main ingredient or as a filler, such as in lubricants, dusting powders, paint, paper, and roofing materials.
Our mesothelioma clients are victims of not only the long-term health ramifications produced by asbestos exposure but also the companies that used asbestos and asbestos-related products in abundance in the workplace. We are hopeful that the EPA will take steps to recommend a broad ban on asbestos products. Our attorneys will not stop fighting until our exposed clients and their families receive the justice they deserve.
Update on Banning Asbestos in the United States
Asbestos exposure is the leading cause of most people that are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and is linked to the deaths of approximately 40,000 Americans a year. Those deaths are caused by lung cancer, asbestosis, cancer of the larynx, and ovarian cancer.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is also a known carcinogen, and is not banned in the United States. The importing of asbestos into the United States has actually increased in recent years. Asbestos is found in houses in insulation and multiple products have asbestos in them.
The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 is a bill that will ban asbestos importation into the United States. The bill has been named for Alan Reinstein, the late husband of Linda Reinstein who died of malignant mesothelioma. Linda Reinstein is one of the co-founders of Asbestos Disease Awareness Foundation who has been working tirelessly for banning asbestos for many years.
According to the ADAO website, the bill would:
- Ban importation and use of asbestos and asbestos containing products within one year of enactment.
- Require that Chlor-alkali plants using asbestos diaphragms would need to eliminate the use of asbestos and convert to non-asbestos technology following a transition period.
- Establish a new Right-to-Know program to require anyone who has imported, processed and distributed asbestos to report and disclose to the public how much asbestos has been in U.S. commerce, where and how it has been used, and who has been exposed.
- Require the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a comprehensive study of risks presented by “legacy” asbestos used in buildings constructed decades ago but still present in millions of residences, businesses, factories, public buildings, and schools.
- Stringently control the presence of asbestos contaminants in consumer products and construction materials.
- Apply to the hazardous Libby Amphibole form of asbestos, found in attic insulation in millions of homes.
This bill was advanced out of the Committee on Energy and Commerce by a bipartisan vote on November 19th. The next step is to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. During these divisive partisan political times this is a very important step toward the goal of passing this bill into law.
As we pause this week to give thanks for our blessings it is also a time to reflect. For the mesothelioma community it is a time to be thankful for the support of tireless advocates for all their work on making banning asbestos in the United States closer to reality. The work of a few to benefit all. Thank you for trying to make this world a safer, healthier planet.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed, please reach out to Belluck & Fox for a free consultation. With laws and information available to patients changing all the time, we can be the experts that help you find justice.
Asbestos in Philadelphia Schools Reminds Us All to be Thankful Around the Holidays
As we approach the holidays, we often reflect upon what we are thankful for. We also reflect upon loved ones who have lost their battle to an illness. Being diagnosed with cancer is life altering. For some, it seems to paralyze them, for others it gives them a whole different perspective about life. Receiving this information about a new diagnosis of cancer including malignant mesothelioma triggers a host of emotions.
As we meet and visit with patients including people that are newly diagnosed or have recurrence of the disease, the emotions are wide and complex. No feeling is either wrong or right, it just is what you feel. Recently in the news a woman spoke about her new diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. She had been exposed to a building containing asbestos for many years. As a result, a profession she loved and enjoyed came to a screeching halt.
It is unclear what symptoms had manifested in her to seek out medical help and confirm a diagnosis. I can imagine what the symptoms were that led to her diagnosis, but what she said was also something that I never really considered. With many tears she spoke about how her career has come to a sudden halt. Her tomorrow is tomorrow and she is unable to look beyond that. She was unaware of the asbestos that was in her place of work.
There has been a vigorous clean up at her workplace dealing with asbestos but still many issues are present. This woman talks about having a safe place to work for all, despite socioeconomic background. Fear of what faces her, and the physical pain that the interviewer speaks about is her primary focus most days. Emotional and physical pain is forefront and keeps her present with her illness which is difficult. Certainly identifying how you feel and speaking to others may be helpful but it does not change her situation presently.
Her plan is to have surgery in December and again the future is a bit unknown at this time. Speaking aloud sharing what her illness is, and how she obtained this diagnosis, can be helpful to many. Not everyone is aware of the dangers of asbestos until it hits close to home. As we progress with our knowledge of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos related cancers, public awareness is key. Social media has also been a valuable tool connecting people to similar situations.
There are many support resources available to patients, families, and loved ones who are dealing with malignant mesothelioma and asbestos related cancers. Public awareness is key to all. Education has become more prevalent while more research has been done with asbestos related illnesses.
Behind every person diagnosed with this rare cancer, there are family members, friends, co-workers who are all affected. As we celebrate the holidays remember the people in our lives that are battling cancer and reach out if possible.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed, please reach out to Belluck & Fox for a free consultation. We’ve been fighting for patient justice for decades.
Rochester Judge Sentences Developer for Exposing Workers to Asbestos
In March, we reported on the Rochester property developer convicted of violating the Clean Air Act asbestos work practice standards involving asbestos removal and disturbance. Now, a New York judge has sentenced the man for exposing workers to asbestos during a construction project.
According to a June 20 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of New York, the man was sentenced to two years probation, 150 hours of community service, fined $15,000 and must pay restitution to the victims in the case. At the time of his initial court appearance, the man was facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In the case dating back to a 2011 investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, inspectors found workers, with no protective gear, near a dumpster containing “large quantities” of friable asbestos. There was no warning sign indicating to the workers that asbestos was present. Further inspection uncovered 90 bags of dry, friable asbestos and unlawful abatement inside the warehouse “involving asbestos contamination of more than 150,000 square feet.”
The warehouse where the workers were exposed, located at 920 Exchange St. in Rochester, is also near a residential area and a school bus stop. According to public records, the building was built in 1930.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, asbestos was used in construction products such as insulation for pipes, floor tiles, vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives and can be found throughout buildings built prior to the 1980s. When undisturbed and intact, asbestos products typically do not cause any harm, but when renovation work is done it is important to remove the asbestos-containing products.
Even small amounts of asbestos and infrequent exposure can create a risk for contracting mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. The 12th Report on Carcinogens from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that studies have found that asbestos causes both pleural (lung) and peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma, as well as cancer in the respiratory tract and other tissues. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that exposure to asbestos can also cause cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, and other organs.
The EPA and OSHA, as well as New York agencies, have strict guidelines and regulations for managing asbestos abatement projects. When renovation or demolition projects are undertaken it is imperative that those guidelines be followed closely.
The time for action is now. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma , the mesothelioma lawyers at Belluck & Fox, LLP to work for you and your family. We also have locations at Albany, Rochester, and Woodstock. Know more about the cases we take.
Kilgore College Being Investigated by State and Federal Officials Over Allegations of Asbestos Mishandling and Cover Up
Kilgore College is nestled in the beautiful town of Kilgore, TX, among the forests, lakes and rivers. But a campus employee claims the idyllic setting is marred by potential asbestos hazards.
The campus facilities director alleges that over the past few years there has been improper handling of asbestos, and that he was told by his supervisor to cover up the violations.
Longview’s News-Journal.com has been detailing the asbestos issue in a series of news articles, and according to one article last week, the director went public with the allegations out of concern for the health and safety of students and campus workers and over fear of legal retribution.
The facilities director says illegal asbestos abatement projects have been conducted an campus, and continue to be prevalent, and that asbestos still remains on campus. He presented a secretly recorded conversation between him and his boss, director of special projects and liaison to the board of trustees, where his boss allegedly said that “violations the college committed were ‘gone’ and that no one would get ‘in trouble,'” according to a Nov.23 article in the News-Journal.com.
Even as the school is being investigated by state and federal officials, and air quality tests are being conducted, the campus president is dismissing the allegations as false. At the same time, some of the trustees are calling the president’s claims premature.
“Please know that you are safe and that there is nothing to worry about in terms of asbestos exposure,” wrote College President Bill Holda in a Nov. 19 letter to students disputing the director’s claims as reported by the News-Journal on Nov. 19.
Several trustees questioned the president’s statement. “I think he’s making an assumption, and his basis for that assumption has not been shared with me that would [provide] evidence there is no one exposed to asbestos,” trustee Carlos “Scooter” Griffin Jr. was quoted as saying in a News-Journal.com article.
The allegations by the employee led the campus officials to conduct air quality tests, but it also brought out FBI and EPA investigators, the Texas Department of Health Services and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for investigations into the asbestos management on campus.
The college has hired an environmental company to take air samples and conduct a safety assessment of several buildings on campus including Dodson Auditorium, Randolph C. Watson Library, Rangerette Gym and the Quads Dormitory. Initial tests have not found any air safety issues, however, it may be several weeks before a full report is presented to campus officials.
“No one wants a safe environment for students, staff and faculty more than the Kilgore College leadership,” said College President Bill Holda in a statement issued to students and published in the New-Journal.com. “Each of us reports here every day, and for years, we have been assured by professionals upon whom we rely that we had such an environment. To date, we have seen no objective evidence or reason to believe that an unhealthy condition exists.”
A college spokesman confirmed that a college maintenance worker, although not licensed to remove asbestos, performed “small” asbestos abatements at the campus, according to the News-Journal. He added that, in addition, the campus has “spent millions upon millions of dollars on asbestos abatements and treatments.”
However, Christine Mann, Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman, said, “Under current state rules for asbestos abatement in public buildings in Texas, there are no ‘small job’ exceptions or exemptions.” She added that if a public institution did in fact violate the law, penalties can be stiff – potentially $10,000 a day per violation.
Asbestos is a human carcinogen and is known to cause deadly cancers when the fibers are inhaled or ingested. Although not everyone exposed develops mesothelioma or lung cancer, anyone exposed has a life-long risk of developing the disease. The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that there is no safe level of exposure.
Mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the linings of the organs, can take decades to develop. Asbestos violation charges can will be filed to anyone who is proven to be managing asbestos illegally.
According to the reports, if the asbestos allegations are true, thousands of people who visited, worked at, or lived at Kilgore College could have been exposed to asbestos over the years.
- Employee: Kilgore College hid asbestos exposure; officials deny allegations
- Kilgore College president denies asbestos procedures occurred
- Kilgore College president issues response to asbestos allegations
- Recordings: Kilgore College official broke asbestos laws, covered it up
- State agency confirms Kilgore College asbestos investigation
Kilgore College Cleared of Asbestos Allegations
In December, we reported on the investigation being conducted at Kilgore College after an employee claimed there was a risk of asbestos exposure to employees on campus. Now, the investigation is closed with no violations found at the Texas school.
The investigation began when the campus facilities director alleged that for years there had been improper handling of asbestos, and that he was told by his supervisor to cover up the violations. According to a March 18 article in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, the Department of State Health Services closed its case on the “complaint investigation” against Kilgore College reporting that “the complaints were not substantiated.”
“With both the TCEQ [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] and TDSHS [Texas Department of State Health Services] not finding any violations to state or federal asbestos laws, it is now official that these asbestos allegations were false,” Kilgore College spokesman Chris Craddock said, according to the Telegraph article. “At no time were students, employees or visitors to our campuses in any danger from asbestos.”
The Telegraph reports that the Kilgore College Board of Trustees recently approved a long-term asbestos management plan to cover all college-owned properties.
It is important that any concern about potential asbestos hazards be thoroughly investigated to ensure the public’s safety. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and has been proven to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other cancers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports there is no safe level of exposure. Once exposed there is a life-long risk of developing an asbestos-caused disease.
Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer with limited treatment options diagnosed in 3,000 Americans each year.
Read the final report from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality here.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma , let the top rated asbestos attorneys at Belluck & Fox, LLP work for you and your family. Call or visit our locations in New York City, Woodstock, Albany and Rochester.