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Health Groups Sue EPA Over Asbestos Reporting

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 21, 2019 5:57 AM

How in the world does asbestos get into crayons, baby powder, and makeup?

That's what the plaintiffs want to know in Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization v. Wheeler, a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. They say asbestos exposure is always bad, but in children's products?!

The plaintiffs want the EPA to impose stricter reporting requirements on companies that handle asbestos. Otherwise, they say, there is no way to know how the toxic material gets into consumer products.

Insufficient Data

Asbestos has been linked to lung diseases and various forms of cancer. The EPA banned the substance in 1989, but the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban.

In their federal complaint, the public health groups say there is insufficient data to track where asbestos is made, processed, and imported into the United States. The EPA has identified asbestos-containing products, but the plaintiffs say the agency has released "virtually no information" about where it comes from.

The EPA requires companies to report asbestos levels in their products. In 2017, however, the agency exempted Occidental Chemical Corporation from reporting asbestos levels in "naturally occurring chemical substances."

The plaintiffs say the EPA is violating the Toxic Substances Control Act and other laws. They want a court order that the EPA revisit asbestos reporting requirements.

Talc Powder

Last year, a jury awarded $4.7 billion against Johnson & Johnson defendants in a talc baby powder case. One of the company's foreign suppliers recently declared bankruptcy due to the costs of defending nearly 15,000 related lawsuits.

Investors also backed away from the company after learning Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos but failed to warn consumers.

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