Will the EPA weaken asbestos rules?
Andrew Schneider thinks so:
From top doctors and scientists to widows, public health experts are mustering to try to keep the EPA from watering down regulations determining the cancer-causing danger of asbestos exposure.
At a meeting in Washington tomorrow, the EPA's Superfund cops – the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency – will take testimony on the agency's plans to change the way it estimates potential cancer risk to those who inhale fibers of asbestos.
The scientific debate boils down to a conflict between the public health community and corporations that have used or still market asbestos containing products or material.
The debate hasn't changed for decades and won't tomorrow.
Scientists paid by the automotive and chemical industry and miners of sand, tale, taconite and gravel contaminated with asbestos, argue that whichever type of asbestos they use "can't be harmful" because the size, shape or chemical composition of their asbestos fiber is benign. On the other side, physicians who have treated thousands of asbestos victims, and scientists who have documented the public health toll, just point to the graveyards.
"Their business model is straightforward. They profit by helping corporations minimize public health and environmental protection and fight claims of injury and illness," wrote Michaels, the director of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at the George Washington School of Public Health.
Do I believe all this effort by these public health authorities, many of whom who have fought this battle for decades, will do anything to force EPA to do what's best for the public?
Not a chance.
EPA leaders won't even listen to their own experts, who say there is an urgency by industry's lobbyists to get this new risk assessment on the books before there is a new occupant in the White House and before agency Administrator Steve Johnson moves on to be a well-paid spokesman for the pesticide or chemical industry.
Remember, this is the same agency that, in its "Value of a Statistical Life," just lowered its official estimate of life's value, from about $8.04 million to about $7.22 million.
Mother Jones, the legendary fighter for worker's safety and health in the 1920s wrote "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."
Ever notice that corporations never want to "err on the side of caution" when lives are at risk?