CERCLA authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to respond to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health, welfare, or the environment. The EPA can compel responsible parties to clean up hazardous sites, fund the cleanup itself, or take legal action to force parties to carry out cleanup or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanups. Asbestos, when improperly handled or disposed of, can be considered a hazardous substance under CERCLA. The act also provides guidelines for the removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials during the cleanup of Superfund sites. CERCLA §104(a)(3) specifically limits the EPA's authority to respond to naturally occurring asbestos or asbestos that is part of the structure of a building, except under certain conditions where the asbestos may pose a significant health risk.
The NESHAP regulations for asbestos are designed to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during activities involving the handling of asbestos-containing materials. The regulations apply to demolition and renovation of buildings, structures, and installations. Specific requirements are set for the inspection of facilities for the presence of asbestos, notification procedures for demolition and renovation activities, and work practices to be followed during asbestos removal, including packaging and disposal of waste. The regulations also establish emission standards for asbestos-containing waste materials and require certain actions to be taken to adequately wet asbestos-containing materials during demolition and renovation to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air.
OSHA's asbestos standards regulate asbestos exposure in the workplace to protect workers from the health risks associated with asbestos fibers. The standards establish permissible exposure limits (PELs) for asbestos in the workplace, require employers to conduct exposure assessments, and mandate the use of engineering controls and work practices to limit worker exposure. They also require employers to provide personal protective equipment, medical surveillance, and training for employees who are likely to be exposed to asbestos at or above the action level or excursion limit. The standards cover various aspects of work with asbestos, including but not limited to, requirements for asbestos abatement, construction, and demolition activities.
The SDWA authorizes the EPA to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally occurring and man-made contaminants that may be found in drinking water. The EPA sets Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for various substances, including asbestos. Public water systems are required to regularly monitor their water for contaminants and to take action to treat or eliminate contaminants that exceed the MCLs. The act also includes provisions for the protection of underground sources of drinking water through the underground injection control program and requires water suppliers to provide annual reports to their customers on water quality, including the presence of asbestos and other contaminants.
Under TSCA, the EPA has the authority to require manufacturers, importers, and processors of chemical substances to record and report data on the health and environmental effects of chemical substances. The EPA can also ban the manufacture and import of those chemical substances that pose an unreasonable risk. Specifically, TSCA Title II, also known as the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA), requires schools to inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing building material and prepare management plans to reduce the hazard from asbestos exposure. TSCA also includes provisions for the EPA to establish requirements regarding the safe handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.