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Largest Importer of Asbestos May Need To Find A Replacement

Chlorine and caustic soda manufacturers may need to make some major changes to their use of asbestos now that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has been amended.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act amended the TSCA back in June, and gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new oversight powers when determining the safety of chemical products. While not designed to target the chlor-alkali industry specifically, they will be one of the most heavily impacted if the EPA selects asbestos as one of the first substances they analyze this December. According to the United States Geological Survey’s 2016 summary, the chlor-alkali industry imported approximately 320 tons of asbestos into America in 2015 in order to manufacture their products, enough to account for about 90 percent of all asbestos imported into the country.

Under the Lautenberg Act, the EPA is required to select and begin examining 10 chemicals out of the 90 included in their “Work Plan” list from 2014 by this December. The EPA has not announced which chemicals it will select yet, but the new law’s supporters are pushing to make sure that asbestos is included. The vice president of Environmental Working Group (EWG) Scott Faber spoke with Bloomberg BNA, saying that:

"Few chemicals are as dangerous as asbestos; there is no question it poses a health risk… Asbestos is the substance by which this new law will be judged.”

Many supporters of the Lautenberg Act cited provisions from the original TSCA which allowed the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ban on many uses of asbestos set in 1989 by the EPA as a key reason for supporting the law.

If asbestos is not selected as one of the 10 chemicals, it may be up to the next presidential administration to determine whether or not to review the substance. While Faber, one of the supporters of the Lautenberg Act declined to comment on the upcoming election, it is important to note that Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has said some troubling things about asbestos in the past. On July 21, 2005, Trump testified during a Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing and said that:

“[T]here’s a whole debate about asbestos. I mean, a lot of people could say that if the World Trade Center had asbestos, it would not have burned down. It would not have melted, okay? A lot of people think asbestos... a lot of people in my industry think asbestos is the greatest fire-proofing material ever made.”

Whether or not the EPA selects asbestos as one of the chemicals it will review, it’s won’t change the fact that thousands of Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year after being exposed to the cancer-causing chemical years before. Asbestos was used for construction for decades, and companies are still being investigated for hiring workers to remove asbestos from old buildings without the proper safety gear.

At Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC, our Houston mesothelioma attorneys have dedicated their careers to provide our clients with the elite legal representation they need and deserve. If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today. We know what steps to take in order to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Call us to speak with one of our mesothelioma lawyers today, or fill out our contact form to begin your free case evaluation.

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