August 10, 2023

EPA Describes Intended Approach to Quantify Asbestos Hazards

A paper released last week by EPA for public comment and peer review describes the quantitative approach for human health assessment that the agency intends to apply during the second part of its risk evaluation for asbestos. Part one, which was completed in December 2020, focused just on chrysotile asbestos, the only asbestos fiber type currently imported, processed, or distributed in the United States. Part two of EPA’s risk evaluation will focus on all fiber types and legacy uses of asbestos, including conditions of use of asbestos in talc and talc-containing products because talc has been implicated as a potential source of asbestos exposure. According to EPA, the paper identifies existing hazard values for asbestos, outlines how the agency proposes to use them during the risk evaluation, and describes the considerations and criteria EPA intends to use to evaluate relevant studies for the quantification of asbestos-related hazards.

“In order to evaluate the risks of asbestos in the manner required under the law, EPA needs to quantify these hazards,” the agency’s news release explains. “[This] systematic review approach helps ensure that part 2 of the risk evaluation for asbestos is based on the best available science.”

Peer review of the paper is expected to occur between Oct. 25 and Nov. 24. Public comments received by EPA by Oct. 2 will be provided to the peer reviewers for consideration. More information about the public comment period and upcoming peer review can be found in the Federal Register.

These supplemental efforts to EPA’s earlier risk evaluation for asbestos stem from a decision (PDF) issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2019 in the case Safer Chemicals Healthy Families v. EPA, which challenged the agency’s prioritization and risk evaluation rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act. In addition, a 2021 consent decree in the case Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization et al v. Regan et al in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California requires EPA to complete the second part of its final asbestos risk evaluation by Dec. 1, 2024. According to the agency’s webpage for part two of the asbestos risk evaluation, it will make the draft available for public comment early next year.

The new paper can be downloaded as a PDF from EPA’s website. Further details can be found in the agency’s news release.