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EPA may be violating its own asbestos standard

December 19, 2011
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AsbestosThe Office of Inspector General (IG) is warning the EPA to stop using unapproved demolition methods on buildings that contain asbestos -- something it said the agency is doing at multiple sites.
In an Early Warning Report, the IG said it is looking into allegations that the EPA may be violating OSHA regulations that protect workers from asbestos exposure. "Our initial research indicated that these allegations have merit." The IG says the EPA's use of unapproved methods may jeopardize the health and safety of the public.

Asbestos is a human carcinogen with no safe level of exposure. The EPA itself issued a standard in 1973 intended to protect human health by reducing exposure to asbestos during building demolitions and other activities. According to the standard, regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM) must be removed by specially trained technicians prior to demolition.

The report says unapproved methods that don't meet the standard are being used at the Hanford Superfund Site near Richland, Washington. Additionally, the EPA is considering using unapproved methods at a gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, Kentucky.

The IG points to video footage of demolition experiments that show government employees and contractors at the sites without personal protective equipment -- a possible violation of OSHA asbestos worker protection requirements. "Because settled dust results inducate that asbestos escaped the restricted areas, unprotected workers adjacent to the restricted areas and any members of the public in the vicinity of the sites may have been exposed."

The IG urged the EPA to identify those workers and the surrounding public of the potential asbestos exposure.

The Early Warning Report is available at:

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