By KERRY SMITH, Editor, St. Louis Construction News & Review Magazine
The St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects supports its parent organization’s stance on a proposed US Environmental Protection Agency ruling. The ruling allows new asbestos products via manufacturing, processing and importing.
Included in the types of materials identified as now allowable by the EPA are: adhesives, sealants, roof and non-roof coatings, arc chutes, beater-add gaskets, extruded sealant tape and other tape, filler for acetylene cylinders, high-grade electrical paper, millboard, missile liner, pipeline wrap, reinforced plastics, roofing felt, separators in fuel cells and batteries, vinyl-asbestos floor tile and any other building material other than cement that contains certain types of asbestos.
The EPA’s authority for taking this action stems from the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, Section 5, which was amended two years ago. It authorizes the agency to determine that a use of specified chemical substances can be considered a “significant new use.” Asbestos is one of those substances. Once this determination has been made, manufacturers of any designated products must notify the EPA at least 90 days prior to manufacturing, processing and selling the asbestos-related product(s).
AIA St. Louis President Barb Anderson-Kerlin said the local affiliate agrees with the official position as communicated by the AIA to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. In the written correspondence, national AIA President Carl Elefante formally opposes the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for asbestos.
“The EPA has offered no compelling reason for considering new products using asbestos, especially when the consequences are well known,” Elefante said. “Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, reauthorized in 2016, the EPA must evaluate and determine whether existing substances pose a risk to the public or the environment. Asbestos causes significant and irreversible risk to those who come into direct contact with it. The risk is especially acute for those who work in demolition construction. Given the established health, safety and welfare risks that asbestos poses at all stages of its mining and usage, the AIA urges asbestos to be treated as a high priority chemical that is phased out of usage,” he added.
Anderson-Kerlin said an architect’s responsibility to design projects that do not compromise the health of project partners and building occupants is paramount.
“As architects, it is our job to protect the public from the buildings we create and they occupy,” said Anderson-Kerlin. “Therefore, the AIA St. Louis Chapter supports the position of our national entity in urging the EPA to rule against the use of asbestos in all cases.”
Elefante’s response, submitted August 9th, underscored the proven risks of asbestos as well as its damaging effects including mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. The AIA national president said exposing contractors, builders, architects and building occupants to friable and airborne asbestos fibers is a bad and dangerous idea.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. has struggled to implement an asbestos ban of its own. The known carcinogen has been banned in 60 countries.