- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for Coalition Co-led by AG Healey Secures Federal Court Order and Settlement Requiring Asbestos Reporting to Protect Public Health
BOSTON — Under a settlement reached by a coalition of 11 states co-led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to require the chemical industry to provide the agency with information about the use and importation of asbestos needed to protect the public from the serious health risks posed by exposure to highly toxic asbestos.
Today’s settlement follows a December 2020 ruling from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in favor of the coalition, mandating EPA to impose the reporting requirements on the chemical industry. The Trump Administration’s Department of Justice filed a motion challenging that decision, but today’s settlement—reached with the Biden Administration’s EPA—ensures that EPA will have to act under the Court’s mandate to move forward with the required reporting.
“Asbestos is a known carcinogen that kills tens of thousands of people every year, and the Trump Administration inexplicably chose to ignore the very serious health risks it poses for our residents,” AG Healey said. “We’re grateful to the Biden Administration for reaching this groundbreaking settlement that will ensure EPA holds the chemical industry accountable and provides the agency with the information it needs to protect workers, families, and children from this toxic material.”
“Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, and excellent alternatives are available for most if not all of its uses,” said Michael Ellenbecker, Co-Director of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute. “It is thus extremely important that members of the public are fully aware of all possible exposures they may have to this deadly substance. I applaud this settlement reached by the Massachusetts Attorney General that affirms the court’s ruling that is so important for public health.”
Asbestos is a highly hazardous mineral fiber used in a variety of piping and building materials, from roofing and flooring, to siding and wallboard, to caulking and insulation, as well as in sheet gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and brake linings, and other consumer products. Exposure to asbestos can lead to life-threatening illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, mesothelioma, and other lung disorders and diseases. Currently, those who import articles that contain asbestos or otherwise manufacture such products, including those products in which asbestos may be present as an unintentional contaminant, are exempt from providing EPA with information about these asbestos-containing products.
In January 2019, AG Healey and then California Attorney General Xavier Becerra led a coalition in filing a petition with EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) urging the agency to issue new regulations to provide data on the importation and use of asbestos in the United States. The coalition asserted that the new set of regulations is needed for the agency to meet its mandate under TSCA to prevent unreasonable risks to health and the environment presented by asbestos and help ensure EPA’s regulatory decisions are consistent with the best available science. EPA denied the states’ petition and the multistate coalition, led by Massachusetts and California, sued the agency in July 2019, along with a group of NGOs led by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
Today’s settlement, when approved by the Court, will compel EPA to issue the regulations sought in the AGs’ petition and will mark the first time a petition of this kind under TSCA has resulted in court-ordered rulemaking.
AG Healey’s Office has been a leading advocate for the increased protections from toxic chemicals required under the overhauled TSCA, which was signed into law by President Obama in June 2016. Joining AG Healey and AG Bonta in the settlement are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This matter is being handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg, of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.