Asbestos, Dioxane, Other Chemicals Get EPA Review Priority Under New Chemical Rules

In recently updated chemical safety rules, asbestos has been listed among ten chemicals selected to undergo a safety review by federal environmental regulators. 

As part of new rules that grant the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expanded power over chemicals that are currently on the market, the agency released a list of the first chemicals to undergo risk evaluation earlier this week.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, signed into law by President Obama on June 22, is the first update to the Toxic Substances Control Act since it was originally passed in 1976. Critics say the law was weak, offering the EPA no power to regulate potentially harmful chemicals. The new law, however, grants the EPA expanded authority.

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Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Exposure to asbestos can cause the development of mesothelioma. Lawsuits have been filed nationwide against asbestos manufacturers.


The updated law allows the EPA to regulate new chemicals. It also offers the agency the ability to evaluate the safety of existing chemicals.

“Under the new law, we now have the power to require safety reviews of all chemicals in the marketplace.” Jim Jones, assistant administrator of the of Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in the press release. “We can ensure the public that we will deliver on the promise to better protect public health and the environment.”

The EPA placed 90 chemicals known to pose health risks on a list called the TSCA Work Plan. The EPA will review these chemicals for safety and conduct risk assessments.

The EPA now has the authority to propose a ban on any chemicals it deems unsafe based on research or it could also restrict those chemicals.

Of the 85,000 known chemicals, the EPA says about 1,000 chemicals which are used in everyday consumer products are in need of safety reevaluation.

The chemical review list includes the following 10 chemicals:

  • 1,4-Dioxane
  • 1-Bromopropane
  • Asbestos
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster
  • Methylene Chloride
  • N-methylpyrrolidone
  • Pigment Violet 29
  • Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene
  • Trichloroethylene

The list released by the EPA focuses on chemicals whose evaluation is a priority for the agency due to the potential they have to pose an unreasonable risk to the public. Some lawmakers and environmentalists urged that asbestos be on that list.

Asbestos is toxic even in small amounts, and has banned in many forms for decades, yet it is still in use in some industries. It is frequently used in automobile brake pads and clutches, vinyl tiles and roofing materials.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to a number of forms of respiratory illnesses and cancer, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

In 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the number of asbestos deaths from mesothelioma were continuing to rise, but were expected to have peaked by now as more time passes since the substance was banned.

Asbestos exposure lawsuits have been one of the largest mass-torts in U.S. history, with more than 600,000 people having filed a case against more than 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma or other related injuries that were allegedly caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.

Once the list is published in the Federal Register, the EPA has three years to complete risk evaluations for the chemicals on the list and decide whether they present an unreasonable risk to the public, and, if so, what to do about that risk.

The new law requires the EPA to release a scoping document within six months that will include hazards, exposures, conditions of use and affected populations involved with the use of each chemical on the list.


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