US guidance on asbestos risk to mechanics

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued guidance to help motor mechanics avoid asbestos exposure from brake and clutch linings. In August 2003, the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP filed a Data Quality Act (DQA) petition with EPA challenging the agency’s 1986 publication. The attorney from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius asked the EPA to either stop disseminating the asbestos disease prevention guide, and either alert the public that the booklet is scientifically outdated, or review the latest scientific literature and update the booklet. The company did not reveal the identity of its client, although it subsequently became clear these were firms defending asbestos cases compensation cases. EPA caved in, replacing the 15 page document with a pared back two page draft replacement. Industry backed scientists then pitched in, claiming a revision should acknowledge their findings that asbestos from brake linings was “innocuous.” According to David Michaels and Celeste Monforton “defendants in litigation involving asbestos-containing friction products have successfully modified an official EPA document which they viewed as “alarmist and inflammatory.”

Guidance for preventing asbestos disease among motor mechanics, US EPA, June 1986.

David Michaels and Celeste Monforton. How litigation shapes the scientific literature, Journal of Law and Policy, volume 15, issue 3, pages 1137-1169, 2007.

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