EPA May Further Regulate Legacy Installed Asbestos

1/29/2018

Companies that own, remediate or simply maintain buildings that contain asbestos may be facing an increased risk from the once popular and ubiquitous building material asbestos. A potential new regulatory interpretation may have serious implications for companies that not only currently use asbestos, but those that inherited the substance in buildings and factories that still contain asbestos installed decades ago, when it was widely used. In a major reversal, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt testified that the agency may include "legacy installed" building materials that contain asbestos, in its risk assessment mandated by the 2016 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The 2016 TSCA required the EPA to evaluate the effect of certain chemicals and substances on human health and environmental safety. The EPA selected ten substances, one of which is asbestos, for its chemical risk assessment. The EPA originally decided to only review "current and prospective uses of asbestos" in various industries, not asbestos that was installed in the past. While most companies in the United States stopped using asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s, the mineral is still used in some chlor-alkali production, coatings, plastics, and building materials. The law allows the EPA to promulgate rules to regulate substances it determines create an "unreasonable risk" to the public.

"Legacy installed" building materials that may contain asbestos include pipe covering, cement, floor tiles, and other materials that remain in buildings built or renovated when asbestos was commonly used because of its superior performance properties. In fact, some building codes previously required the use of asbestos for fire protection in certain applications. If the EPA regulates asbestos-containing products that were installed decades ago, which products are commonly managed "in place," expect increased oversight of building managers, property owners, and asbestos remediation companies throughout the United States. It is therefore essential for companies to remain informed about developments in asbestos regulations and to seek counsel to ensure compliance with the ever-changing regulatory restrictions. Education and vigilance are the key components needed to protect workers, occupants from health hazards, the environment from contamination and to protect companies from legal liability.

Governo Law Firm has defended clients in complex asbestos claims for decades. We actively participate on industry committees and regularly lecture and publish articles on current legal developments and factual trends in asbestos, toxic tort, and environmental litigation. If you would like to speak with someone regarding asbestos or other toxic tort claims, please contact David Governo at [email protected] or Vincent DePalo at [email protected].