Something potentially much more dangerous is at work here, too, something done not with the health of the people or the planet in mind (according to EPA critics), but rather the bottom line of big business.
In conjunction with its new SNUR proposal on asbestos, the EPA will now, it says, change how it evaluates the risk of certain chemicals (including ones in asbestos) covered under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Now, it will not take into account risks posed by chemicals in the air, ground or water.
From "The Chemical Industry Scores a Big Win at the E.P.A.," in The New York Times:
"Instead, the agency will focus on possible harm caused by direct contact with a chemical in the workplace or elsewhere. The approach means that the improper disposal of chemicals — leading to the contamination of drinking water, for instance — will often not be a factor in deciding whether to restrict or ban them."
That will, according to reporting by Fast Company, effectively turn a "blind eye to improper disposal, contamination, emissions, and other long-term environmental and health risks associated with chemical products, including those derived from asbestos."
This is a clear victory, as The Times says, for the chemical industry and, quite possibly, for those wanting to import or use asbestos in building materials.
"The EPA abruptly retreated from a posture of moving toward more protection for Americans from these dangerous chemicals to a position that can only be seen as placating the chemical industry," Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a statement.
The EWG, along with government watchdog group American Oversight, is petitioning the courts for any contact former EPA chief Pruitt had with chemical manufacturers before this agency's decision. "The American people deserve the fullest account of how Pruitt and his aides may have colluded with chemical companies and their lobbyists," Benesh says. "When a top public health agency has the power to ban asbestos, and it doesn't, something is amiss."
Other possible winners in this are manufacturers, including Russia, which stands to become the leading exporter of asbestos to the U.S.
An aside: President Trump himself, who made his bones in real estate before politics, is evidently a believer in asbestos. He claimed on Twitter in 2012 that New York City's Twin Towers would not have "burned down" if asbestos had been used there and, according to Rolling Stone, in his 1997 book "The Art of the Comeback", Trump wrote that asbestos is "100 percent safe, once applied."