Mesothelioma Lawyers Note Chemical Safety Bill Gains Traction

A measure that would boost protections for consumers and workers in Boston and throughout the country is gaining momentum in Congress, following decades of inaction by the federal government.

Our Boston mesothelioma attorneys are encouraged by the progress of this action, which was slowed significantly back in 1991 when the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to enact additional protections against asbestos exposure were curtailed by a federal appeals court ruling.

If the 1976 Toxic Substance Control Act can be strengthened, as advocates hope, we believe it may be possible for additional efforts to outlaw asbestos in the U.S. to be renewed. This could ultimately curb future instances of mesothelioma, which is caused by exposure to the fibers when they become airborne.

As it stands right now, the TSCA is essentially toothless, though it pledges regulation of potentially harmful chemicals in both consumer and industrial goods – everything from children’s pajamas to plastic bottles.

However, the act has been a disappointing failure. The New York Times reports that of the approximately 85,000 chemicals that are registered for approved use in the U.S., only about 200 have actually been tested by the EPA. Of those, less than a dozen have been restricted.

When the EPA lost its appeal to try to regulate asbestos, the agency also gave up any efforts to initiate further action on the TSCA.

Renewed efforts began in 2005. However, they have thus far been unsuccessful in enacting change because politicians have been effectively swayed by the American Chemistry Council, which represents deep-pocketed firms such as Procter & Gamble and Exxon Mobil.

But now, it appears a compromise may have been reached. If passed, certain aspects of chemical safety enforcement would be strengthened. For example, all chemicals would have to undergo safety and risk evaluations. Based on these, the EPA would be labeled somewhere on the spectrum of high or low priority. If the chemical was rated with a high risk potential, the EPA would then assume regulation control.

Still, some say it doesn’t go far enough. There aren’t enforceable deadlines, for example, and representatives of the Environmental Defense Fund complained that the EPA was lacking in authority to protect low-income communities or infants and children exposed to high amounts of toxic chemicals.

Asbestos is a highly toxic mineral that is heavily regulated, but it’s still legal for companies to buy, sell and use in the U.S. Most other industrialized nations have banned the substance, but the political lobby for asbestos products remains active. The EPA had attempted to ban the substance back in 1989, but it lost in federal court appeal two years later.

At the time of that ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals had criticized the EPA for failing to identify all substitute products that could replace asbestos and evaluating their toxicity as well, which would help in justifying the ban.

The EPA shot back that the court had made significant legal errors, but it has never again attempted to revive the issue of a ban.

We hope that with the anticipated strengthening of the TSCA, advocates could be empowered to seek such change.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:
New Alliance Emerges to Tighten Chemical Rules, May 24, 2013, By John M. Broder, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
Boston Asbestos Litigation – Lessons for Future Cases, May j28, 2013, Boston Asbestos Lawyer Blog

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