What You Need to Know About the EPA’s Proposed Rule on Asbestos | The Doctor Weighs In

The Doctor Weighs In
5 min readDec 6, 2018

By: Noah Rue

The EPA’s proposed rule on asbestos may make it possible for new uses of asbestos to escape assessment exposing more Americans to this known carcinogen.

According to the NY Times, “the Russian firm Uralasbest posted on Facebook an image of its asbestos packaging that featured President Trump’s face along with the words: “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States.” The company is one of the world’s largest producers and sellers of asbestos.” https://nyti.ms/2AH0jrN

You may think of asbestos as a building material that’s gone the way of lead paint — it’s something we no longer use in most construction projects. It can really only be found in old houses. However, asbestos continues to be used in some materials, like sealants. Now, due to a new measure from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos may begin appearing in more products.

Asbestos is a mineral that was traditionally used for things like car brakes and theater curtains because of its fireproof qualities. It’s also been known to cause multiple types of cancers since the 1970s. As a known carcinogen, the U.S. banned its use in new products, and most people chose to replace asbestos products in their homes for their own safety.

While the new measure from the EPA doesn’t de-regulate asbestos use exactly, it makes it possible that more uses could slip through monitoring. According to the New York Times, the new rules would require that only 15 specific uses be assessed instead of all new uses. “Critics of the rule argue that limiting the review to 15 uses means other potential uses would avoid examination,” writes reporter Lisa Friedman.

In order for this policy to be effective, it requires that people believe the EPA has identified all possible uses of asbestos and then ruled out any outside of that 15-item list as benign. It’s worth noting, however, that asbestos carries significant medical risks with it. These are risks that anyone can be exposed to at any time — regardless of how it’s used.

The Unknown Is Scarier Than the Known

There’s a popular saying that the enemy you know is better than the one you don’t. This can also be true of health risks and materials that can potentially cause them. In the case of asbestos, there’s still a lot the medical community doesn’t know — although some symptoms are well documented.

There’s a chance that allowing new uses of asbestos could expose new populations in ways they…

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