EPA May Upend Decades of Asbestos Science

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EPA’s New Asbestos Determination May Upend Decades of Science and Impact Litigation

When we think of the word “asbestos,” our minds automatically associate this with being poisoned.  If you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos, it is important you contact your local officials, immediately. Without knowing the actual scientific studies behind asbestos, it is hard for the average individual to really know how high their risk is of getting sick. Dependent upon the situation and company involved when it comes to asbestos exposure, an individual might also qualify for financial compensation. If the exposure occurred in the workplace, this could be an instance that financial compensation or assistance might be awarded to those exposed. When an attorney takes on a potential asbestos exposure case, it is the hope that a jury understands the exposure risks and will take those risks into account. In any event, it is important for any educated attorney to inform a judge and jury of the risks and potentially life-threatening illness that can result from asbestos poisoning. Many people exposed to asbestos have suffered life-long effects such as lung issues and much more. This can also result in exorbitant medical and hospital bills.

Research shows that “asbestos” refers to silicate minerals. These minerals are capable of being released into the air through the process of abrasion, such as housework. Many have experienced asbestos poisoning when having wall-work done at the home or business space, etc. Some are more susceptible to expose to asbestos while others may not experience any symptoms of asbestos poisoning at all. The fear is in what we can’t see. Since we can’t see asbestos, it’s hard to determine on our own if we have in fact been exposed unless someone in the environment exhibits tangible symptoms. Asbestos litigation lawsuits are lawsuits filed on behalf of the person being potentially exposed to asbestos poisoning.

Asbestos – Federal Definitions

Federal regulations define “asbestos” as a term that collectively or individually refers to six minerals in their asbestiform:

  • Chrysotile (the asbestiform of the serpentine minerals) – This is considered one of the most common asbestos minerals that people are exposed to. It is easily ingested and typically found in building materials.
  • Grunerite asbestos a/k/a amosite (amphibole mineral) – This is considered one of the most common forms attributed to lung disease.
  • Riebeckite asbestos a/k/a crocidolite (amphibole mineral) – This is known to be used in spray coatings, pipe insulations, and cement products.
  • Tremolite asbestos (amphibole mineral) – Tremolite differs from typical asbestiform minerals because it can be found in fabric. It is heat resistant and is considered one of the more dangerous minerals because it is the prime cause for asbestos – related disease like lung cancer.
  • Anthophyllite asbestos (amphibole mineral) – This is easily ingested, can cause lung issues and can be found in typical construction materials.
  • Actinolite asbestos (amphibole mineral) – This type of mineral is easily ingested through the air and can be found in materials such as drywall.

A lot of these minerals first originated in mines. Many are able to be crushed down into very small fibers, sometimes even into fiber sizes so small, they are capable of being woven into fabric items (such as Tremolite asbestos). Because of this, these minerals have their benefits in being able to be used in certain necessary daily products and items but downfalls due to their severe risk of poisoning when ingested.

How is asbestos regulated?

Research has been done to show that today, the body has the ability to fight off the dangers of most of the minerals, dependent on general health, age, and multiple factors. Because of the fact that each of these minerals has a different variation of potency, it’s difficult to determine that each mineral can be resistance in the body. Many might have a higher toxicity, while others might be lower. The toxicity ratio typical depends on the mineral’s chemical makeup (which your average person would not know without a scientific background or extensive research).

“For context, OSHA’s definition of an asbestos fiber was created for the purpose of creating a safe work environment for employees who may be exposed to airborne asbestos fibers during the course of their workday.  EPA purposely defined an asbestos fiber to ensure that an area where asbestos abatement recently occurred was clear of all airborne particles, including, but not limited to asbestos fibers.”

The most dangerous of asbestos composed minerals seem to be crocidolite and amosite. These types of minerals are the most potent, therefore creating for higher toxicity levels. For example, due to the fact that crocidolite can be found in cement products and spray coatings, people have a higher risk to exposure, and therefore toxicity rate because these products are widely used in standard repairs. This can happen in a household environment or business environment, creating for more widespread exposure. Amosite is considered dangerous due to the fact that it is the most known to cause lung issues amongst those who inhale it.

Nevertheless, OSHA has set one limit for exposure to all asbestos minerals:

0.1 - f/cc every 8hrs  (fibers/cubic centimeter)

In addition, EPA has placed the following limit on the amount of any asbestos minerals that products may contain:

< 0.01 (1%)

New Risk Evaluation for Asbestos

The EPA issued a new regulation, urging all companies and suppliers to report any asbestos related minerals in their products and the hazards that could be faced if exposed to asbestos minerals in certain quantities before having products imported or sold.

“However, the EPA’s Risk Evaluation includes a few concerning comments that threaten to upend decades of research and regulatory policies regarding asbestos.

Most significant is the EPA’s Inhalation Unit Risk (IUR) for chrysotile: 0.16 f/cc, which is being proposed because the EPA already assigned a 0.17 f/cc IUR for Libby , MT amphibole and a 0.23 f/cc IUR for mixed asbestos (chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite).  As a threshold issue, IUR’s are an estimate of the upper bound of someone’s cancer risk who has a lifetime (70yrs) of exposure. While an IUR is not an evaluation of the specific risks of mesothelioma or lung cancer, IUR’s should be relative to those specific risk factors.  The EPA’s proposed IUR for chrysotile is contrary to numerous studies that show that chrysotile is less potent than the amphibole asbestos minerals by wide margins.  The broad sweeping nature of the EPA’s IUR will also diminish the “chrysotile defense” used by defendants in asbestos litigation, which plays out at trial by either demonstrating that the scientific literature shows that chrysotile does not cause mesothelioma or by calculating the level of chrysotile that a plaintiff was exposed to with proof that the exposure level was below the level that science shows is necessary in order to cause disease.”

The EPA’s regulation was met with critique due to the fact that many had questioned the accuracy of the information regarding the potential for exposure, as well as potency.

“If the agency follows the advice of SACC members and public commenters alike, its DRE for asbestos will likely undergo a length revision process, if not a complete withdrawal and re-work. However, the EPA noted on a June 26, 2020 webinar regarding its ongoing TSCA evaluation that it is firmly committed to publishing a final rule for asbestos exposure by the end of 2020, despite the significant comments it has received.  This suggests that the EPA may be prepared to push through its determination in its current form, which will significantly impact the asbestos litigation for years to come.”


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