Proposed EPA rule would bring back asbestos on case-by-case basis

Posted: Updated:

A new proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency could ease restrictions on a severely regulated, known carcinogen.

Asbestos was popular in the 1970s, before manufacturers dropped it due to its links to cancer and other health risks.

Janet Conforti says her husband Charles died three years ago from lung cancer linked to the substance.

"I think about him every day, and I think I should have done more," she says.

But there was little more the Huntington woman could have done for her husband, who she says fell victim to asbestos exposure while at work. 

"He swept it up, and then he would come home with (it) on him," she says. "I don't think that's right."

And that's why she opposes the EPA's proposal.

More than 60 countries have banned or regulated the chemical. The U.S. severely restricted its use without completely outlawing it.

With the EPA's new regulation, companies would be able to use it in products like adhesives, sealants and pipeline wrap — on a case-by-case basis.

Health care providers and environmentalists are raising concerns. They say that if the rule receives confirmation it could open the door to other new products made with asbestos.

"Why do we want it or need it? We know it causes three different types of lung cancer," says Adrienne Esposito, of the Citizens Campaign for Environment. 

Groups that monitor asbestos deaths report that 12,000 to 15,000 people die each year from exposure-related illnesses.

Removal crews have to wear heavy-duty masks and hazmat suits for safety when dealing with it.

"I don't want my worst enemy to be around asbestos, to tell you the truth," says Leo Torres, of the Green Island Group in Bohemia, which provides asbestos removal.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency will stop taking public comments for the proposed rule.

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