In the summer of 2016, Congress passed an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act that directed the Environmental Protection Agency to identify the 10 most hazardous chemicals based upon their potential for causing illness. The EPA published the list on November 29, 2016. Now the Trump administration is seriously undercutting the effectiveness of the amendment by refusing to include so-called “legacy” uses and long-term exposure to toxic chemicals in its review of the dangers of these chemicals.

Under the Obama administration’s direction, the EPA said that it wanted to examine the hazards posed by chemicals already in widespread use. The Trump administration has said that it will look only at materials that are currently being manufactured and entering the marketplace. This policy effectively eliminates from EPA review a significant number of chemicals whose adverse health effects have been thoroughly documented but whose current use has become minimal.

Asbestos is a case in point. After the hazards of inhaling asbestos fibers became widely known in the 1970s, the substance was virtually banned from use in this country. Nevertheless, an estimated 8.9 million tons of the white fibers entered the United States marketplace between 1970 and 2016 for use primarily as insulation and fireproofing. The EPA under President Trump has said that it will exclude existing uses of asbestos from its study under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act. In effect, the EPA will ignore the health risks of an extremely dangerous substance that is still causing illness and death.

Construction industry workers and firefighters will be most critically affected by this decision. Asbestos is still found in large amounts in the older buildings that are common in Connecticut. When one of these buildings burns or is demolished, copious amounts of asbestos fibers are released into the atmosphere. Inhaling these fibers can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other forms of lung cancer. Anyone who may have been exposed to airborne asbestos fibers may wish to obtain a medical examination by a medical provider experienced in diagnosing asbestos-related illnesses. Anyone who receives a positive diagnosis may wish to seek legal advice from an attorney who is experienced in handling claims related to workplace illnesses.

Source: WTNH-TV, “Toxins in widespread use excluded from EPA chemical review,” Matthew Brown, Oct. 29, 2017