EPA Asbestos Review Delayed Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Chrysotile asbestos fibers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency postponed indefinitely a peer review of the recent asbestos risk evaluation draft done by its Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals.

A peer review virtual meeting was scheduled for April 27-30, but several independent scientific experts on the panel are no longer available. A Bloomberg Law article published this week explained that several health professionals serving on the committee could not attend because they needed to “give their full attention to the coronavirus crisis.”

No date for the rescheduling was announced.

“The agency believes that rescheduling for a time when more members are available is critical and will allow for a more robust review of the evaluation,” according to the EPA press release announcing the postponement.

A peer review of the draft is a step toward the EPA’s final risk evaluation for asbestos, the ninth of the first 10 substances and chemicals to undergo increased scrutiny as part of the amended Toxic Substances Control Act.

Written public comments, which will be presented to the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals, will be accepted until June 2.

Evaluation of Asbestos Continues

Once the SACC finishes the evaluation process, the EPA will have the option of proposing further regulations to prohibit or limit the manufacture, use, distribution, processing or disposal of asbestos.

Asbestos, which was once used ubiquitously in America, is heavily regulated today because of its dangerous toxicity. It is a naturally occurring mineral that can provide tensile strength and heat resistance to a wide range of products.

Exposure to asbestos can lead to ingestion or inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers. These fibers can cause serious health problems, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestos has not been mined in the U.S. since 2002. An estimated 100 metric tons of asbestos were imported in 2019, the smallest amount since records were first kept in 1910.

All raw asbestos imported today goes to the chloralkali industry, which uses it to manufacture semipermeable diaphragms for making chlorine.

EPA Assessment Finds Unreasonable Asbestos Risk

One of the biggest threats to the public today is legacy asbestos, products that were manufactured 30 years ago but remain in place throughout residential and commercial construction.

The draft risk evaluation by the SACC in March, which looked at 33 conditions of use, found “unreasonable risk” in the limited products still being used today. The SACC draft cited:

  • Asbestos diaphragms in the chloralkali industry
  • Asbestos-containing brake blocks in the oil industry
  • Asbestos-containing sheet gaskets in chemical production
  • Automobile aftermarket asbestos-containing brake linings
  • Automobile friction products
  • Commercial use of asbestos-containing gaskets

“EPA found that workers, occupational non-users, consumers and bystanders could be adversely affected by asbestos under certain conditions of use,” the draft reported.

The EPA found no unreasonable risks to the environment, or from the import and distribution of asbestos and asbestos products.

It did not evaluate exposures to the general population.

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Senior Content Writer

Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers.

2 Cited Article Sources

The sources on all content featured in The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com include medical and scientific studies, peer-reviewed studies and other research documents from reputable organizations.

  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020, April 20). Peer Review of the Draft Risk Evaluation for Asbestos.
    Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/tsca-peer-review/peer-review-draft-risk-evaluation-asbestos
  2. Rizzuto, P. (2020, April 20). Scientists’ Critique of EPA’s Draft Asbestos Analysis Delayed.
    Retrieved from: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/scientists-critique-of-epas-draft-asbestos-analysis-delayed

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