Earlier this year, the Office of the Inspector General announced that it believed that the Environmental Protection Agency (an agency obviously expressly created in order to protect the environment) does not have adequate policies in place to protect the public from asbestos exposure. For example, the OIG specifically noted a policy that allows companies or individuals to release water that has been contaminated by asbestos.
This regulation is part of the National Emissions Standard for Asbestos, which was first released in 1973, and does not, in general, have environmentally sound regulations for the demolition or destruction of buildings that may contain asbestos, therefore allowing asbestos to be released into the water and soil of the surrounding areas.
One of the toxicologists who helped to prepare the OIG report stated that demolitions have the ability to be very damaging to the environment and that the amount of asbestos entering the environment is likely to exceed what is legally allowed. Older buildings are very likely to contain asbestos and demolishing these buildings is also very likely to release asbestos fibers into the environment. When humans come into contact with asbestos, it has the potential for causing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other serious issues.
The report states that it is both the demolition procedures and the materials themselves that are responsible for asbestos contamination, and recommends that because asbestos was so commonly used in buildings before 1980, the EPA needs to review its policy, determine the risk of asbestos exposure, and develop new regulatory practices to protect the public from exposure.
In response to the OIG, the EPA has said that it believes its regulations are comprehensive and that the recommendations made by OIG will not be implemented. They do admit, however, that because the document itself is so old, it could use clarification, especially as more and more older buildings are being torn down to make way for new construction. The EPA said that it is currently in the process of creating a team of experts and inspectors to investigate the risk of asbestos exposure in an area where demolition is taking place and to clarify their current regulations to make sure they are fully understood.