EPA Advances Asbestos Part 2 Risk Evaluation, Seeks Peer Review on White Paper

August 2, 2023

Contact Information

EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a white paper as part of its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Risk Evaluation for Asbestos Part 2 – Supplemental Evaluation Including Legacy Uses and Associated Disposals of Asbestos for public comment and peer review. The white paper presents EPA’s quantitative approach for the human health assessment for part 2 of the risk evaluation for asbestos, which will include all fiber types and legacy uses. The agency will release the draft risk evaluation for asbestos part 2 for public comment early next year. EPA is releasing this white paper ahead of the full draft risk evaluation for public comment and peer review to allow for a focused review of key technical aspects that will benefit from independent expert review and advice. 

“More than thirty years after EPA first proposed a ban on asbestos, too many people are still exposed to this cancer-causing chemical,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michal Freedhoff. “With this white paper, we move one step closer to comprehensively evaluating and then addressing the dangers of asbestos exposure.”

Under the previous Administration, EPA narrowed the scope of the TSCA risk evaluation for asbestos by only reviewing ongoing uses and excluding legacy uses and disposals. Because only chrysotile asbestos has ongoing uses, other fiber types were not considered. However, in 2019, a court ruled that the agency unlawfully excluded “legacy uses” and “associated disposal” from TSCA’s definition of “conditions of use,” resulting in the need to supplement the agency’s initial review of asbestos (“part 1”) with a “part 2” risk evaluation, which focuses on legacy uses and associated disposals. Part 2 also includes other types of asbestos fibers in addition to chrysotile (crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite) as well as asbestos-containing talc. 

Exposure to asbestos can cause cancer and other serious health effects. In order to evaluate the risks of asbestos in the manner required under the law, EPA needs to quantify these hazards. Today, the agency is releasing a white paper entitled White Paper: Quantitative Human Health Approach to be Applied in the Risk Evaluation for Asbestos Part 2 – Supplemental Evaluation Including Legacy Uses and Associated Disposals of Asbestos. In the white paper, EPA identifies existing hazard values for asbestos and describes how the agency proposes to use them in the risk evaluation.

EPA also describes its systematic review approach to identify and evaluate relevant scientific studies for the quantification of asbestos hazards and to make decisions about which are most relevant for part 2 of the risk evaluation in a fit-for-purpose manner. The approach was informed by the peer reviewed Draft TSCA Systematic Review Protocol and reflects the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recommendations to conduct a targeted, chemical-specific review of relevant science for TSCA specific decision making. As NASEM suggested, EPA has considered and built on existing peer-reviewed agency assessments of asbestos including part 1 of the risk evaluation, EPA’s 2014 Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Libby Amphibole Asbestos Assessment and the 1988 IRIS Asbestos Assessment to streamline its evaluation of human health hazards. The systematic review approach helps ensure that part 2 of the risk evaluation for asbestos is based on the best available science.

Consistent with EPA and OMB guidance on peer review of scientific and technical work products, EPA is requesting a letter peer review by 10 to 15 independent experts of the quantitative approach to the human health assessment to be used in part 2 of the risk evaluation. The agency is choosing to submit this white paper, rather than the full draft risk evaluation, for peer review to focus on key technical aspects of the forthcoming risk evaluation and to make the most efficient use of the experts’ time. Peer reviewers will develop and provide their independent comments to EPA between October 25, 2023, and November 24, 2023. Additional information about the letter peer review will be available on the peer review website.

EPA will accept public comments on the white paper for 60 days following publication via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0309 at www.regulations.gov. These comments will be collated and provided to peer reviewers for their consideration. 

In addition, EPA will consider feedback from this letter peer review as the agency prepares to release the draft Part 2 Risk Evaluation for Asbestos for public comment later this year. EPA will subsequently finalize part 2 of the risk evaluation by December 1, 2024.

Read the white paper.