Federal agencies Workplace exposures Respiratory conditions Fire/emergency medical services

EPA to study corrosive dust standard

Washington – Spurred by post-9/11 illnesses suffered by first responders, the Environmental Protection Agency will examine its corrosive dust standard to determine whether it provides adequate protection for workers and the public.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit directed EPA to look into the standard as part of a March 13 agreement to halt legal proceedings between the agency and watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The court ordered EPA to provide updates at 120-day intervals beginning July 13.

EPA will determine its next step on or before March 31, 2016. The agency’s options include publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, issuing a proposed rule or tentatively deciding that its corrosive dust limits do not need to be changed.

The agency agreed to study its corrosive dust limits about six months after being named in a Sept. 9 lawsuit by PEER and Cate Jenkins, an EPA chemist and whistleblower. The lawsuit stated that EPA’s corrosive dust standard – last updated in 1980 – permits alkaline corrosive materials at a level 10 times higher than international standards.

PEER said exposure to corrosive dust led to permanent lung damage for some workers responding to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001.