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EPA Statement: There is No Safe Level of Exposure to Asbestos

March 22, 2012

Published December 21, 2011 by Yahoo News, EPA Statement: “There is No Safe Level of Exposure to Asbestos”

Mesothelioma attorneys Clapper Patti Schweizer & Mason represent clients every day who are suffering from asbestos cancer and diseases after being exposed to the toxic mineral. With the recent controversy in Canada whether it’s safe to re-open asbestos mining and continue exporting to other nations, the statement that "there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos" by Inspector General Elkins of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is more than welcomed by those of us who watch as thousands die due to an exposure that could so easily be prevented.

The recent statement comes after discovery that the EPA actually allowed unsafe handling of asbestos by their own employees and contract workers during tests in Texas and Arkansas in 2006 and 2007 and more recently in Washington and possibly Kentucky during demolition of buildings known to contain the carcinogen.

Inspector General Elkins states in an Early Warning Report released last week: "...settled dust results obtained from testing during AACM demolition experiments at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and Fort Worth, Texas, demonstrated asbestos fiber releases. Video footage and photos show government employees and contractors at the demolition sites without personal protective equipment, a possible violation of OSHA asbestos worker protection requirements. Because settled dust results indicate that asbestos escaped the restricted areas, unprotected workers adjacent to the restricted areas and any members of the public in the vicinity of the sites may have been exposed. EPA should identify the workers that were present, and notify them according to OSHA regulations. Further, EPA should notify the surrounding public of potential asbestos exposure during these AACM experiments."

Elkins further states all government agencies should immediately stop any further use of the unapproved method of asbestos removal during demolition of contaminated buildings at any other sites that were considering using the alternative.

Regulations regarding the removal of asbestos containing materials were initially created in the Asbestos NESHAP rule in 1973.    This rule requires that any materials known or suspected to contain asbestos must be removed by trained abatement specialists wearing specific protective gear before a building can be demolished. The EPA was experimenting with using an “Alternative Asbestos Control Method” (AACM) that later proved to be unsafe, with tests after demolition showing asbestos in the air beyond safety levels as defined by the Asbestos NESHAP.

If asbestos is determined to be “friable”, meaning could be reduced to powder by hand pressure, crumbled or pulverized when dry (NESHAP, Sec.141.) then it poses a threat of exposure that could later lead to serious illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Air tests conducted on sites where the alternative method was being used as well as internal documents showed that the “wet method” being used was insufficient and released toxic fibers into the air.

It was not until after Public Justice and the Natural Resources Defense Council, two environmental advocacy groups, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and sued for disclosure from the EPA that the Inspector General has finally put immediate stop to the alternative method and re-iterated that no level of exposure to asbestos is safe.

About Clapper Patti Schweizer & Mason

CPSM, mesothelioma attorneys who have been fighting for the rights of those injured by asbestos for over thirty years, applauds Elkins' recent statement and move to prohibit any unsafe methods of removing asbestos. Visit our website, updated daily, for the most current news regarding asbestos and mesothelioma.