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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Clifton, R. A.
Asbestos,   pp. 71-84 PDF (1.4 MB)

Page 72

 Asbestos was one of the 12 minerals selected for in-depth study as part
of the presidentially directed Nonfuel Minerals Policy Study started in 1978.
 At the direction of the President, the heeds of the Consumer Products Safety
Commission (CPSC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), OSHA, and EPA
in August formed the Interagency Regulatory Liaison Group (IRLG) to insure
that areas of shared interest and responsibility would be considered jointly.
In the initial document issued by the group in 1978, asbestos was among the
24 hazardous materials of interest to a majority of members. Among other
things it said, " appears that all four agencies have an interest
cooperation in the following areas: Standard definitions of asbestos/asbestiform,
importance of size and shape of asbestos fibers, analytical methodologies
used in asbestos determinations, use of asbestos, substitutes for asbestos,
labeling requirements, asbestos removal and disposal techniques and procedures,
levels of environmental contamination, levels' of human exposure, human body
burden levels, and economic impact statements developed for regulatory purposes
and for monitoring activities." 
 Effective December 18, 1978, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
began enforcing its new asbestos exposure regulation. The new regulation
replacing the five-fiber level reads, "The 8-hour timeweighted average
concentration of asbestos dust to which employees are exposed shall not exceed
2 fibers per milliliter greater than 5 microns in length, as determined by
the membrane filter method at 400 to 450 magnification (4-millimeter objectjve)
phase contrast illumination." 
 In the Federal Register of December 4, 1978, the Department of Transportation
(DOT) issued its final rule on asbestos transportation. Effective April 30,
1979, the areas of principal impact on the industry pertain to containers,
designation, and incidence reports. This was modified in the March 29, 1978,
Federal Register and again in the August 16, 1979, issue. 
 On March 16, 1979, EPA announced its voluntary program to provide technical
assistance to school officials for the prevention of exposure of children
to asbestos. In the Federal Register of July 13, 1979, EPA announced a regulatory
program to run parallel to the voluntary program. 
 On October 17, 1979, both EPA and CPSC published Advanced Notices of Proposed
Rulemakings in the Federal Register. CPSC proposed initially the elimination
of all nonessential uses of asbestos in consumer products which might release
the fibers. EPA's regulatory approach would involve a' "life cycle"
of assessing risk. 
 On December 17, 1979, in separate notices, both the CPSC and EPA extended
the comment period on the proposed rules cited above. EPA also stated: "Should
EPA's evaluation of human health risks and economic impacts determine that
all but essential uses of asbestos present unreasonable risk, a possible
regulatory strategy may be to ban the manufacture, processing, distribution
in commerce, and import of asbestos for all nonessential asbestos uses at
some fixed date in the future." EPA is seeking comment on this overall
approach and on an appropriate date for instituting a general use ban. Effective
dates presently under evaluation range from 1985 to 1995. 
 H.R. 1524, Asbestos School Hazard Detection and Control Act of 1979, passed
the House but not the Senate. It included this definition of asbestos: "Asbestos
and asbestos material are defined in Section 10 to include materials composed
entirely or in part of chrysotile, amosite, or crocidolite, and when they
occur in fibrous habit, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite." 
 Environmental Impact.—News coverage of asbestos health problems
during 1978-79, and litigation increased. The number of law suits grew from
159 new cases in 1976, to 362 new ones in 1977, and through September 15,
1978, 530 new ones were filed, or a prorated 700-plus for the year. One $20
million suit was settled in Texas, with nearly $6 million coming from the
U.S. Government. A $1 billion suit was filed in California. 
 The West Australian Government has decided to close down and evacuate the
150resident town of Wittenoom because of continuing risk from airborne asbestos
dust. There is apparently a very high incidence of mesothelioma and other
similar diseases among present and former residents of the area in which
crocidolite asbestos was mined from 1938 to 1968. In 1979, the residents
were offered purchase of their property, A$750 removal expenses, and A$100
travel grant per person. 
 Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond, vice president for epidemiology of the American Cancer
Society, presented a paper at a spring 1978 meeting of the New York Academy
of Sciences in which he said that researchers 

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