OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey led a multistate coalition in submitting a comment letter supporting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulations to protect against asbestos, and calling for bans of other forms of asbestos. Asbestos — a carcinogen that kills more than 12,000 people in the U.S. per year — is linked to diseases that are life-threatening, or cause substantial pain and suffering, including mesothelioma, fibrosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, as well as other lung disorders and diseases. There is no safe level of exposure to this highly toxic material.
“Public health and the integrity of our communities go hand in hand,” said Attorney General Bonta. “This isn’t something that’s up for debate: Asbestos harms people, it weakens communities, and puts at risk the lives of those who come into contact with it. Today, we are glad to see that EPA will address this highly toxic material, which is still used in certain industries, and we are urging EPA to do all it can to better protect the public from the dangers of asbestos.”
The proposed rule represents the first time in more than 30 years the EPA has moved to significantly limit or ban the use of asbestos in the U.S. The proposed rule would, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, prohibit the manufacture, import, processing, distribution or use of chrysotile asbestos, a form of the long-known toxin asbestos, in certain products. In the comment letter, the attorneys general support EPA’s efforts to limit this dangerous toxin, while urging EPA, among other things, to go further by banning other forms of asbestos, and ask the agency to take proactive steps to avoid creating a situation that could promote the substitution of toxic per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (collectively, PFAS) “forever chemicals” for asbestos in the chlor-alkali manufacturing industry.
Previously, California and Massachusetts led a multistate coalition challenging the EPA’s failure to create a new rule requiring data collection on the importation and use of asbestos, and in December 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found in favor of the state attorneys general. As part of the settlement, the EPA agreed to create regulations requiring data reporting of imported asbestos and asbestos-containing products, including asbestos as an impurity.
Today’s multistate comment letter supports the EPA’s ban on the manufacture, import, processing, distribution in commerce, use and disposal of chrysotile asbestos under certain conditions of use, including in friction products and as used in the chlor-alkali industry. The coalition also asks EPA to go further, and ban other forms of asbestos beyond chrysotile asbestos. In anticipation of other toxic substances that could replace the use of chrysotile asbestos, the coalition argues for the EPA to extend its ban to regulate “forever” PFAS, a chemical commonly used as a replacement for asbestos, in the diaphragm industry. In the comment letter, the coalition also urges the agency to undertake a robust analysis of legacy asbestos present in the built environment, other types of asbestos, and conditions of use of asbestos-containing talc, as it has committed to do in its Part 2 risk evaluation of asbestos.
Attorney General Bonta and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey are joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia in filing the comment letter.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.