SACC Raises Concern Over Narrow Scope Of EPA’s Draft Asbestos Analysis

April 8, 2020

EPA’s science advisors are raising concerns over the narrow scope of the agency’s draft evaluation of asbestos, prompting changes to the charge questions they will consider when they assess the draft during a peer review meeting later this month so they can formally discuss their concerns. During an April 7 conference call to discuss the draft of the charge questions that the panel will discuss at its upcoming meeting, members of EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) raised questions over how EPA handled background asbestos exposures and why it excluded some diseases associated with asbestos exposure in the draft. There is “not a clear indication what proportion of asbestos exposures in the workplace or community [are] covered by this [draft evaluation],” Henry Anderson, the former chief medical officer for Wisconsin and a SACC member said.

“There should be some mention of the magnitude of the comparable exposures,” he added. The SACC is slated to meet April 27-30 to peer review the agency’s draft evaluation of asbestos, which found that that multiple evaluated uses of the substance pose “unreasonable” cancer risks via inhalation exposure to workers in several industry sectors, occupational non-users and consumers. But the draft has already drawn stiff criticism from environmentalists and a key House lawmaker, who are stepping up their efforts to have Congress approve legislation banning the mineral in part because EPA’s analysis is too narrowly focused and ignores multiple aspects of asbestos risk. Chemical industry officials have also criticized the draft for overstating risks to workers. During the SACC’s preparatory meeting, Anderson and others also raised concerns that EPA had precluded some exposure pathways, such as water ingestion, or exposures to air discharges from facilities that work with asbestos. EPA’s assessment largely focuses on occupational exposures to asbestos, and a few consumer uses, and Anderson voiced concern that the assessment is “not talking about chrysotile fibers that may be in the home, in the plants, chrysotile from drinking water…”

SACC Chairman Ken Portier, a statistician retired from the American Cancer Society, reminded Anderson of EPA’s general policy to exclude from its risk evaluations any exposures or hazards that can be regulated through other statutes, or fall under the jurisdiction of other agency offices or federal agencies. “I’m familiar,” Anderson replied. “I just think that there should be some mention” of the issue. Portier said that SACC has “included that [recommendation] in the past three reviews the committee has done.” Anderson’s point was supported by another panelist, Ruthann Rudel, research director at Silent Spring Institute, who suggested adding a question to SACC’s charge asking “whether EPA has adequately described the overall opportunities for exposure and shown which ones are being addressed and which ones are not very clearly and providing a little more information about the relative importance of the things that are being addressed and the things that aren’t?” Advisors and EPA staff discussed several changes to the charge that the SACC sought to allow panelists to better address areas of concern, or areas that EPA had not addressed in the charge. A final set of charge questions is due to the panel’s designated federal official, Diana Wong, by April 13, Wong said.

Background Exposures Tweet  4/9/2020 SACC Raises Concern Over Narrow Scope Of EPA’s Draft Asbestos Analysis |’s-draft-asbestos-analysis 2/3

Panelist Kenny Crump, an independent statistical consultant, and others also raised concerns about how EPA handled background exposures in the draft evaluation, picking up on issues raised by public comments at the April 7 meeting. Crump noted that asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral, can be found in high levels in dirt in some areas, particularly in western states — and that individuals exposed in EPA’s conditions of use scenarios are also exposed to these background levels of asbestos. “One of the issues that has come up with background levels and occupational exposures is the extent to which the background is additive to the occupational exposure,” Crump said. He added that any kind of construction that disturbs dirt in areas with asbestos in it could increase exposures — from home construction to new roads. “We are focused on conditions of use that we know exist and are purposeful. I get that many different [asbestos] fibers are naturally occurring. There are high levels in some background exposures, but it is not purposeful,” Louis Scarano, EPA’s chemical manager for asbestos, said of the draft TSCA evaluation, though he added that staff “spent a fair amount of time” discussing the issue in relation to the consumer conditions of use in the draft. Another panelist, Brad Van Gosen, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist, also expressed concern with some of the exposures omitted from the draft evaluation, questioning why EPA has “limited the list to the sources you have. Consumer exposure wouldn’t just be limited to brakes…” Van Gosen urged EPA in the evaluation to be clear about why it is excluded some sources of exposure. And he noted that some asbestos exposure sources do not have clear regulatory overseers. “The natural occurrence [of asbestos] in rock or a hillside … that’s always been a gray area, who’s responsible, other than California doing it as a state,” he said. “After all these years I’m still not sure where that fits in.”

Portier said that the issue of “the extent to which ambient levels of asbestos impinge on these occupational exposures” is one that SACC has discussed with other chemical evaluations the panel has reviewed over the past year “quite often.” He encouraged the panelists to write down and remember the issues raised for the peer review meeting later in the month. “If you don’t see what you want there it’s fair game to comment on it,” he told the panelists. The comments came after one public speaker, Brett Kynoch managing director of the Environmental Information Association (EIA), a group concerned with environmental and occupational health hazards in the built environment, protested EPA’s decision to evaluate risks posed by “legacy” uses of asbestos in a separate supplemental evaluation – after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit directed EPA to address such uses. “A supplement will not adequately address the exposures and concerns that are still used throughout the U.S.,” Kynoch said, adding that excluding them will underestimate cancer rates.

“The supplemental risk evaluation will do nothing if it is not integrated into the rest of the evaluation.” Another public speaker, a physician and epidemiologist, questioned EPA’s decision to exclude from the evaluation diseases other than lung cancer and mesothelioma. He urged the agency to consider pleural disease, which he said “occurs at low doses, comparable to those that would be at increased risk for malignancy … I’m suggesting it should be looked at because it could occur at lower numbers and pleural disease is something we want to avoid.” Noncancer Diseases Some panelists also appeared concerned that EPA did not consider noncancer diseases associated with asbestos exposure, with Van Gosen asking why asbestosis was not in the evaluation, prompting SACC member Holly Davies, a toxicologist with Washington state’s health department, to urge EPA to add a charge question for the panel about noncancer effects. Tom Bateston, an epidemiologist with EPA’s research office, told SACC when EPA crafted the problem formulation for the asbestos evaluation in 2018, “our initial calculations were that cancer risk would be the risk driver overall and that is why we focused on cancer. We do make mention in the draft risk evaluation that there can be risks for noncancer and that was considered in the risk determination of deaths.” EPA staff also committed to adding another question to the charge, after Davies noticed that the draft charge did not contain any questions about physical chemical properties of the asbestos, and said it “seems like there should be a question on physical chemical properties.”

Limited data on chemical properties have been an area of concern for 4/9/2020 SACC Raises Concern Over Narrow Scope Of EPA’s Draft Asbestos Analysis |’s-draft-asbestos-analysis 3/3 several of SACC’s peer reviews among the first eight TSCA draft evaluations the panel has reviewed. Especially in areas with limited information, EPA has used properties to guide modeling or assumptions about hazard and toxicity. Crump agreed with Davies, particularly for a mineral like asbestos that exists in varying fiber types. “It’s important to ask whether the physical chemical properties of asbestos you’re regulating are similar to the asbestos you used [to develop the risk evaluation] … like dimensions and those kind of properties,” Crump said. Scarano committed to Portier that he would ensure a new question about properties will be added to SACC’s charge. -Maria Hegstad (

Asbestos Ban Bill Gets House Panel’s Ok, But Senate Fate Less Clear


National – A House committee approved legislation Nov. 19 to ban asbestos but allow certain chemical manufacturers to transition away from use of the cancer-causing mineral. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved on a 47-1 vote H.R. 1603, an amended version of the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019. The bill would ban the mineral, with a few exemptions, within one year.

EPA finds asbestos poses cancer risks for workers, reigniting calls for ban

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that asbestos poses an unreasonable risk of cancer to both workers and consumers who inhale it, ramping up pressure on the agency to ban the substance.  In a draft risk assessment published this week, the EPA said that workers who inhale asbestos from certain uses of the substance in the Chlor-alkali industry, chemical production industry, oil industry and automotive industry had risks of lung cancer and mesothelioma.  It also found that consumers who were exposed to asbestos from automotive brakes and linings had these risks. 

The analysis comes nearly a year after the agency finalized a rule which it says will limit the use of asbestos. Critics, however, say that the rule could open the door to some uses since it stopped short of banning it.  The EPA has said the rule closes a loophole from a 30-year-old law that prevented the agency from limiting the sale of some asbestos products.  This week’s assessment heightened the calls for a ban. 

“It is now clear that this EPA has no intention of addressing this dangerous, proven carcinogen,” said a statement from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).  “Therefore, Congress must pass the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act and put an end to this public health threat once and for all,” he added, referring to legislation that would ban asbestos.   Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, also called for a ban on the substance. 

“That EPA found this level of risk, despite the severe limitations and deficiencies of their evaluation speaks volumes,” she said in a statement. “We have repeatedly noted their flawed approach fails to fully recognize and evaluate the public health threat of asbestos which is why Americans can’t wait for the EPA to get it right.”  An EPA spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that “one of EPA’s priorities is to protect the public from adverse health effects of asbestos.” 

“The draft risk evaluation represents the agency’s initial review of the scientific data on this chemical and will be peer reviewed by independent, scientific experts as well as open for public comment,” the spokesperson said, noting that the analysis was only a draft.   Officials have known for decades that asbestos causes illnesses including lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.  “If there is any unreasonable risk, the EPA will regulate, and our regulation could take the form of a ban,” an EPA official told The Hill last year

Asbestos Draft Risk Evaluation for Asbestos Available for Public and Scientific Review

EPA has already exceeded the statutory deadline for finalizing the risk evaluation for asbestos, and is now in the 6 month extension period allowed by the law. The clock runs out entirely in June 2020, which is likely why EPA has issued this long-awaited risk evaluation, even when there have been calls to wait until the coronavirus pandemic has ended. This is the ninth of the first 10 chemical compounds evaluated by EPA under the revisions to TSCA as a part of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.   

EPA is moving ahead with a planned scientific review of its just-released draft evaluation of asbestos, which found the substance poses an unreasonable risk to workers, consumers and others. EPA finds that asbestos poses and “unreasonable” cancer risks via inhalation exposure to workers in several industry sectors, occupational non-users, consumers or bystanders from consumer use. 

Completely missing from this draft risk assessment is any response to the recent court decision in Safer Chemicals Healthy Families v. EPA, Nos. 17-72260 et al. (9th Cir. 2019), which requires the EPA to consider legacy exposures to asbestos-containing materials that currently exist in the nation’s buildings, facilities and homes. EPA states that it ” intends to consider legacy uses and associated disposal in a supplemental scope document and supplemental risk evaluation.”

EPA did not find risk to the environment. For all the conditions of use included in the draft risk evaluation, EPA has preliminarily found no unreasonable risks to the environment under any of the conditions of use.

Upon publication of the Federal Register notice, the draft risk evaluation will be available for public comment for 60 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0501. Please submit comments on the draft risk evaluation by April 22, 2020 to allow the SACC time to review and consider them before the peer review meeting. Comments received after April 22, 2020 and prior to the end of the oral public comment period during the meeting will still be provided to the SACC for their consideration. Anyone submitting written comments after April 22, 2020 should provide an electronic copy to the DFO listed below. EPA will continue to accept comments on the draft risk evaluation until the end of the 60 day public comment period. The agency will consider all comments received on the draft risk evaluation by the end of the public comment period when developing the final risk evaluation. When preparing and submitting your comments, see the commenting tips at

EPA will hold a preparatory virtual meeting on April 7, 2020 for the panel and public to comment on the clarity and scope of the draft charge questions for the April meeting. Register to attend the virtual preparatory meeting.

To download the document, click below.

Independent Tests Clear Makeup Sold at Claire’s Retail Stores of Asbestos Contamination

After initial reports of asbestos contamination in makeup product sold at Claire’s stores, the company moved quickly to have testing performed by independent laboratories. The resulting reports indicate no evidence of asbestos contamination in their products, allaying mesothelioma concerns for users of the makeup across the country.

Read the Article from Here

Johnson & Johnson Internal Documents Reveals Acceptable Baby Powder Asbestos Level

A Johnson & Johnson internal memo reveals that executives considered a 1% level of asbestos in their baby powder was acceptable because it was well below the level allowed for an asbestos miner at the time. This conflicts with their assertion that J&J baby powder never contained asbestos. The exposure of the memo has opened J&J up to a new round of law suits.

Read the Article from Here

Asbestos – Out of Site, Out of Mind?


Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, that’s not the case for a major insurance provider that is now dropping clients because of a policy change regarding asbestos. A homeowner came to 7news with a letter stating their Allstate homeowner’s insurance policy is being canceled.

The siding of the home is made of asbestos, a popular insulation material used before it was outlawed in 1980 because exposure can be dangerous, often leading to lung cancer and mesothelioma. President of Lyons Insurance, Stephen Lyons, says about 20% of homes in the area have asbestos due to older construction. “Whether it be the siding, the roofing, the floor even the commercial spaces, some still have asbestos,” said Lyons. He says there are a lot of factors to determine the risk of an older home, but asbestos is one that is harder to assume for some major providers.

“Removal or remediation of asbestos is very expensive,” said Lyons. “There can also be lawsuits from the contamination or the physical damage of the removal of asbestos.” It’s not just Allstate. Lyons says many carriers are being selective in this area and it may be because we can be exposed to asbestos easier. “Number one there’s the wind risk factor, number two there’s the water risk factor,” said Lyons.

So, insurance companies may be more willing to write up policies for newer homes rather than take a bigger risk on an older one. Lyons says there are a few options for homeowners with asbestos. You can either get rid of it, or find a policy and provider that will assume the higher risk. We reached out to Allstate and are awaiting a response.

Senate Democrats Float EPA Asbestos Ban Bill Due To Fears Over Dourson

November 15, 2017

Eight Senate Democrats have introduced a bill seeking to ban asbestos — even as EPA is working on a precedential risk evaluation of the substance under new responsibilities in the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — in part because of concerns that President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the agency’s toxics office wouldn’t ban its use. “The main context is the [Michael] Dourson nomination” to be the assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, “the way that’s impacting our view of the situation,” a Democratic Senate staffer tells Inside EPA. “When we passed the bipartisan [TSCA reform] bill last year, there was the feeling that any potential EPA official working in good faith would ban asbestos as part of the first 10 high priority cases” that EPA elected for risk evaluation as directed in the reformed statute.

As expected, EPA shortly before the end of the Obama administration selected asbestos among the first 10 existing chemicals — those on the market when the original TSCA took effect in 1976 and largely grandfathered under the original law — to be prioritized for risk evaluation and potentially regulation. EPA has a statutory deadline of three years to complete evaluations of the 10 chemicals, after which any uses of the chemicals deemed not to meet TSCA’s unreasonable risk standard must be regulated. “But there’s really a high degree of alarm about Dourson,” the staffer says. “And in a wide variety of instances he may recommend controls on chemicals that are much weaker than we would like to see and those could get locked in for a long period of time.”

As a result, Democrats recently introduced their legislation to require EPA to ban asbestos in case Dourson opts against pursuing any prohibition on the substance. Democrats, environmentalists and some public health advocates have stridently opposed Dourson’s nomination, arguing the former EPA toxicologist’s non-profit risk assessment consulting group is too close with myriad chemical industry clients. They have pointed to numerous chemicals where Dourson proposed risk standards that are weaker than those EPA or state agencies ultimately adopted. Senate Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee vowed to oppose Dourson’s confirmation, even as the committee voted along party lines to advance his nomination to the floor.

Dourson’s nomination seems to have stalled, however. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moved a Nov. 9 party-line confirmation vote of another controversial EPA appointment, that of William Wehrum to lead the air office. But McConnell did not advance Dourson’s nomination, signaling that there may by dissension in the Republican ranks. With the GOP holding a slim three-vote majority, Republicans cannot lose more than two votes if Democrats vote as a block. The two Republican senators from North Carolina have recently told reporters that they have concerns about Dourson, linked to his past work on perfluorinated chemicals — which are currently contaminating North Carolina’s Cape Fear near a Fayetteville facility — and his past work on trichloroethylene, a solvent that contaminated the drinking water supply at Camp Lejeune, NC.

“I think the real question is if McConnell is willing to burn floor time on [Dourson]. But he did today with Wehrum,” the staffer says. “If they actually have a tax thing to move, that’s going to take up a lot of their floor time. But if they get stalled on that they may move to nominees.”

Asbestos Legislation

Eight Democrats, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), introduced S. 2072 Nov. 2. The bill reintroduces legislation proposed in the last Congress by former California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), as she was negotiating reform of TSCA with Republicans and more moderate Democrats. Merkley is joined by cosponsoring Sens. Cory Booker (NJ), Richard Durbin (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Edward Markey (MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jon Tester (MT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).

If signed into law, the bill would require EPA within 18 months of enactment to “impose, by rule, prohibitions, restrictions, and other conditions, including prohibitions on the manufacture, processing, use, distribution in commerce, and disposal of asbestos and mixtures and articles containing asbestos, that the Administrator determines to be necessary to eliminate human or environmental exposure to asbestos.”
The bill seeks to amend TSCA Title VII and revise TSCA’s definition of asbestos, which generally refers to various types of mineral fibers that are harmful to the lungs. TSCA strictly defines “asbestos” as consisting of six fiber types, but the bill would expand the definition to include “all forms of asbestos.”

EPA, however, is restricting its ongoing risk evaluation to the existing TSCA definition of those six fiber types. This application of the narrow definition of asbestos and other changes further restricting the ongoing risk evaluation is another driver for the introduction of the new asbestos bill, says Linda Reinstein, CEO and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. The new bill and its predecessor are named for Reinstein’s husband Alan, who died of asbestos-related mesothelioma. Reinstein pointed to changes the Trump EPA made to the final rules implementing TSCA reform, and in particular changes to how conditions of use will be evaluated in TSCA risk evaluations as a major concern — particularly as applied in the scoping document that EPA released describing how it plans to evaluate asbestos

“The conditions of use being changed in the scoping document was for me alarming and deeply concerning,” Reinstein told Inside EPA in a Nov. 9 interview. “To change the conditions of use, to exclude legacy uses and [some types of asbestos, such as] Libby amphibole — by altering the conditions of use to strongly favor the chlor alkali industry equals no ban.”

Reinstein remains concerned that the chlor alkali industry, the major remaining ongoing use of asbestos, will successfully lobby EPA to exempt the industry from any ban that EPA might propose for asbestos upon completion of the risk evaluation. Reinstein notes that the chlor alkali industry successfully lobbied for an exemption when EPA last proposed banning many uses of asbestos in 1989, and that the industry has made similar arguments in comments to EPA on its ongoing risk evaluation. Reinstein said that after reviewing the asbestos evaluation scoping document that the Trump EPA released last June, “it was abundantly clear to me that we would never have a ban if we relied on the existing EPA to evaluate the risk.” — Maria Hegstad

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