Ten Recommendations for the Management of Asbestos
In May of 2003, the Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF) published its report on the management and use of asbestos. Overall, it gave the EPA ten recommendations for strategies and actions in dealing with the continued fight against the risks of asbestos.
1) Update existing asbestos-in-building guidance
The EPA already publishes a “purple book” that gives instructions for the removal and disposal of asbestos from buildings, and GTEF recommends an update, including a revised operations and maintenance “green book” that contains the advances in regulations and practices that have taken place since it was published in 1985.
2) Encourage compliance with existing regulations
Though fairly strict asbestos regulations are already in place, some businesses still do not comply with them, either because of lack of awareness of the standards or a misunderstanding of their importance. The report recommends that the EPA partner with OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to provide seminars that will encourage employers to voluntarily comply with existing legislation.
3) Clarify the asbestos definition to address asbestos contamination in vermiculite and other minerals
At the contaminated vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, one aspect of the problem was that the asbestiform minerals that were causing disease (including tremolite, winchite, and richterite) were not officially categorized as types of asbestos. The GETF recommends revising and clarifying the definition of asbestos in order to include all hazardous forms of the mineral.
4) Advance a federal legislative ban on asbestos
Many Americans may not know that asbestos is not officially banned in the country – while such a ban was passed in 1989, it was overturned in 1991. The report recommends a reinstitution of this ban that includes specific dates by which time asbestos-containing products should be eliminated.
5) Develop a national mesothelioma registry
An official list of cases of mesothelioma in the U.S. will help the Center for Disease Control monitor and evaluate the epidemiology of the disease, and potentially improve the prospects for treatment.
6) Update asbestos model training curricula
As with the short-term recommendation, the GETF suggests updating training materials to encompass the changes in legislation and practice since the materials were originally published. Refresher courses for asbestos workers should be allowed some variation by the training provider in order to provide the best training possible.
7) Enforce existing asbestos regulations
The report emphasizes consistency in the enforcement of existing asbestos regulations and the fact that this action cannot merely be in effect in the short term. Consistent regulation will help protect businesses from potential liability and free up resources for the EPA to use on other issues.
8) Reduce the occurrence of unintended asbestos in products
Despite the fact that very few asbestos-containing products are still manufactured in the U.S., some products like vermiculite insulation are still contaminated with naturally-occurring traces of the mineral. Improved sampling methods at mining facilities are one way to deal with this problem.
9) Address asbestos-containing products in commerce
A limited number of products, including roofing compounds, gaskets, brake linings, and clutch facings, still contain small amounts of asbestos. The GETF recommends an outreach program that will make consumers aware of the contents of these products, allowing them to make an informed choice about their use.
10) Partner with state agencies in support of asbestos training
Finally, the report addresses training fraud, such as contractors who supply false certification, and recommends that the EPA work with state regulatory agencies to root out this fraud and provide proper training and testing methods.
Global Environment and Technology Foundation. (May 16, 2003). “Asbestos Strategies: Lessons Learned About Management and Use of Asbestos.” Retrieved March 21, 2011 from the EPA.