New EPA rules have made it easier for companies to introduce new uses of asbestos-containing products in America, reports Fast Company contributor Aileen Kwun. Asbestos is a dangerous carcinogen outlawed in more than 55 countries, and while products derived from asbestos may not hold a direct threat to consumers, those who work with it in the building community and are exposed to the fibrous material while renovating and constructing homes, schools, and offices, are at risk.

Asbestos exposure is irrefutably linked to illnesses including lung cancer and mesothelioma, says Kwun. She writes:

On June 1, the EPA enacted a “SNUR” (short for Significant New Use Rule) allowing the manufacture of new asbestos-containing products to be petitioned and approved by the federal government on a case-by-case basis. Under an amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that passed in 2016, during the Obama administration, asbestos also remains one of ten prioritized substances currently being evaluated by the EPA.

As the New York Times reported, the agency has significantly narrowed the way it evaluates the risk of potentially harmful chemical substances, all but making these two safety measures moot, and signaling a win for the powerful chemical lobby. A lengthy report of EPA’s new “framework” for evaluating risk, placed into effect this month, detailed how it would no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments—effectively turning a blind eye to improper disposal, contamination, emissions, and other long-term environmental and health risks associated with chemical products, including those derived from asbestos.

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