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Lawsuit seeks to end asbestos reporting exemptions

Asbestos refuses to go away. It has been found in crayons, makeup, fertilizer, hygiene products, brake pads and others. Contrary to popular belief, it is not against the law to use asbestos in U.S. products and manufacturing, although it is illegal to mine it.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency has traditionally monitored asbestos imports and its use in consumer goods. Now, environmental advocacy groups, including the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its asbestos reporting rules. According to the lawsuit, the EPA fails to track all of the ways in which asbestos is imported and used in the U.S.

Where is all that asbestos going?

While the EPA banned all asbestos in 1989, a federal court overturned that ban in 1991. Under current rules implemented in 2011, companies must report asbestos levels in products. However, in 2017 the EPA granted an exemption for a U.S. company that uses asbestos to make chlorine because its asbestos use involved a “naturally occurring chemical substance.” The groups who have sued petitioned the EPA to remove this loophole, among other requests for stricter reporting requirements. 

The EPA has refused to amend its exemption, claiming that it already is aware of all asbestos use in the products manufactured and sold in the U.S. However, the recent discovery of asbestos in crayons, talc products, makeup and other consumer products calls this into question.

Asbestos popping up in surprising consumer products

The lawsuit alleges the EPA is violating the Toxic Control Substances Act and putting consumers in danger by failing to mandate asbestos reporting for all products made and sold in the U.S. While it remains to be seen how the lawsuit will play out, it is clear that everyone needs to be aware of which products have asbestos.

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