White House Encourages Federal Agencies to Water Down Regulation of Hazardous Substances Including EPA’s Asbestos Regulations

Proposed Asbestos Plan Ignores Documented Asbestos Health Risks

As the Bush administration winds to a close, the White House is attempting once again to weaken federal regulation of hazardous substances including asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking to change the toxicity regulations onsix types of asbestos, including the most common-chrysotile. Citing that a new approach is needed to assess asbestos-contaminated Superfund sites, the EPA is attempting to ignore studies done over the last few decades documenting the hazards of chrysotile by submitting alternative studies, many subsidized by the asbestos industry, that purport to show chrysotile asbestos is not dangerous and does not cause mesothelioma. On July 21 and 22, the Scientific Advisory Board, responsible for reviewing the EPA's plan to change the toxicity levels of asbestos, heard approximately two dozen witnesses who either provided statements or oral testimony. The Scientific Advisory Board will have their report on the EPA's recommendations for weakening the asbestos toxicity regulations in approximately a month.

The Labor Department is also busy trying to weaken regulations that protect those who work around hazardous chemicals. In an attempt to change regulations on toxic chemical safety hazards, the Labor Department sent plans directly to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for changes on regulations that protect workers from hazardous chemicals in the work place.

For further information on the EPA's campaign to lower toxicity levels in asbestos regulations and the Department of Labor's plans to change chemical safety hazard regulations, please read Andrew Schneider's excellent article, "Agencies asked to ease safety rules." Andrew Schneider is a senior correspondent for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.