Posts tagged with "Asbestos":

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EPA issues new rule on asbestos that goes short of total ban

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule that tightens restrictions on the use of asbestos-containing products in the United States. Made in response to the wave of criticism the EPA received last summer, the ruling makes adjustments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), forcing companies to gain prior approval from the agency before importing certain items for commercial sale or introducing them into domestic manufacturing processes. The EPA promises to evaluate these items in order to further restrict their use or ban them from the marketplace altogether.  The agency expanded the scope of the rule that was first unveiled last summer by adding four new categories of products and a “catchall” category that would require the review of any asbestos uses not previously noted. Under the final rule, 19 asbestos-containing products including adhesives, sealants, roofing felt, as well as millboard, pipeline wrap, reinforced plastics, and vinyl-asbestos floor tile will be prohibited from entering the market without a risk evaluation by the EPA. Additionally, all five uses of asbestos previously banned under the 1989 law, such as rollboard and flooring felt, will remain prohibited. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement that before this decision was made, the EPA didn’t have the authority to wholesale prevent or restrict certain asbestos-containing products from being reintroduced into the market. This final rule would effectively close the loophole previously left in the partial ban that was enacted into legislation almost 30 years ago, but for many environmental advocacy groups, this move still isn’t enough. Linda Reinstein, president of Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, told The New York Times the ruling was “toothless,” and that it doesn’t stop raw asbestos from being imported into the United States. According to the recent U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries report, 300 tons of raw asbestos was imported in 2017 and almost all was used by the chloralkali industry.   This news comes just weeks after Wheeler testified in front of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, saying he’d issue an outright ban on asbestos. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, denounced the ruling, saying it was a “complete betrayal of that commitment.” Pallone in a statement: “It does nothing to restrict ongoing uses of asbestos…instead, it provides a pathway to market for uses that had previously been phased out, such as in floor tiles and insulation.” The EPA says it will take at least 60 days for the final rule to go into effect.
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Asbestos outrage turns toward AIA on Twitter

Architects have taken to Twitter calling out the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for staying silent on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s recent decision to allow asbestos back into the manufacturing process for building products on a case-by-case basis. People are now wondering why the AIA has yet to speak up in the wake of national buzz, although at least one AIA official has informally responded online. Architect Donna Sink first brought up the issue of professional ethics: Then the Architecture Lobby, a national nonprofit focused on labor and social issues in the field, responded to Sink's tweet, which provoked an outcry of criticism against the AIA's silence: Some even went so far as to say that any architects who specify asbestos-containing products for their buildings shouldn't be licensed: Even the firm Brooks + Scarpa weighed in: According to a tweet, 2019 AIA vice-president/2020 president-elect Jane Frederick, FAIA, has spoken with current 2018 President Carl Elefante via email to discuss the organization's involvement with the discussion on asbestos. The Architect's Newspaper received word from the AIA as of 1 p.m. today that they will be releasing a comment soon. Stay tuned. The EPA is taking public comments on the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) on asbestos through this Friday, August 10. At the time of publication, 154 comments have been submitted. Let the EPA know your thoughts here.
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EPA is now allowing asbestos back into manufacturing

Fast Company recently reported on the potential comeback of one of the most infamous building materials of recent memory. Asbestos is now legally allowed back into U.S. manufacturing under a series of loopholes by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Fast Company reported, on June 1, the EPA authorized a “SNUR” (Significant New Use Rule) that allowed the distribution of products containing asbestos on a case-by-case basis. According to Fast Company, the EPA's recently released report detailing its new framework for evaluating the risk of its top prioritized substances states that the agency will "no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments."  This news comes after the EPA reviewed its first batch of 10 chemicals under the 2016 amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which requires the agency to continually reevaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals in lieu of removing them from the market or placing new restrictions on their use. The SNUR greenlights companies to use toxic chemicals like asbestos without consideration about how they will endanger people who are indirectly in contact with them.  Asbestos was widely used in building insulation up until it was completely banned in most countries in the 1970s. The U.S. severely restricted its use without completely outlawing it. As Fast Company covered, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) revealed in April that asbestos-related deaths now total nearly 40,000 annually, with lung cancer and mesothelioma being the most common illnesses in association with the toxin. Healthy Building Network (HBN), an environmental advocacy group, told Fast Company that the fibrous material poses a major health risk for everyone exposed to it, including those who mine it, those who handle it in industrial facilities, as well as people near or inside renovation and construction projects where it’s being used. HBN’s Board President Bill Walsh said that the chlor-alkali industry is the only industry in the country that still uses asbestos, reportedly importing about 480 tons of the carcinogen each year from Russia and Brazil.  Walsh pointed out to Fast Company that chlorine-based plastics are commonly found in building-product materials and that “virtually all” asbestos in the U.S. is used in the industrial process to make chlorine. This includes PVC and vinyl plastics, which is largely found in the creation of pipes, tiles, flooring, adhesives, paints, and roofing products.  Though the EPA is now easing its regulations against integrating the harmful toxin and others like it under the Trump administration, it will largely be the responsibility of local and state governments, as well as companies and informed consumers to counter these new federal moves. Walsh told Fast Company it’s up to sustainable building-product manufacturers and ultimately, architects to pressure the market.  “Architects really set the pace of design, in terms of aesthetics and materials that we like,” he told Fast Company. “If they start to incorporate health-based criteria into their palette, it could really have an influence on what the manufacturers produce.”  Earlier last month, The Washington Post noted that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the ADAO had discovered a controversial post on Russian asbestos exporter Uralasbest’s Facebook page showing photos of company pallets stamped with a seal of U.S. President Donald Trump’s face. As The Post covered, Trump has long been vocal about his skepticism about the harmful effects of asbestos, claiming in his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, that anti-asbestos efforts were “led by the mob.” The Post uncovered how in 2012, he tweeted that the World Trade Center might not have burned had the fire-retardant material not been removed from the towers. It’s estimated that 400 tons of asbestos fiber went into the structures before the developers stopped it from being used further in 1971.  The EPA told The Washington Post it will conduct further studies on the first 10 chemicals under the amended TSCA and final risk evaluations will published in December 2019.