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Asbestos Exposure Limit Ordered Slashed by 90%

June 14, 1986|HENRY WEINSTEIN | Times Labor Writer

The following year OSHA began the regulatory process that led to Friday's action.

Asked if the industry might sue again, Nyquist responded, "We could conceive of that." He said he could not make a more definitive statement because it would take some time for association officials to thoroughly review the 900-page document OSHA released Friday.

Economic Impact

The agency said it would cost American industry $460 million annually to comply with the new standards. The OSHA statement said that with the exception of secondary asbestos gasket manufacturing and renovation activities in construction, "the revised standards will not have a significant economic impact on the industries' viability, nor will they have an adverse impact on small firms."

OSHA's action follows a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency in January to ultimately ban use of asbestos entirely in the United States. Hearings on that proposal, which is strongly opposed by industry, are scheduled to begin next month.

In proposing the total ban, EPA administrator Lee Thomas said "no level of exposure is without risk."

Sources in Washington said, however, that OSHA's action Friday is likely to diminish the chances of a total ban. Still, a House of Representatives subcommittee is continuing an investigation into allegations that White House budget officials attempted earlier this year to thwart the proposed EPA ban by influencing the drafting of an OSHA standard.

'Undermine EPA Effort'

"We conducted a number of interviews at the Department of Labor and OSHA this week," said a staff member of the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. " . . . We are, in particular, looking at attempts to undermine the EPA effort."

OSHA's action Friday will prompt action by Cal/OSHA, the state job safety agency. Richard Stephens, a Cal/OSHA spokesman, said that California's exposure limit had been the same as the federal standard, and that it would have to come into compliance with the new federal ceiling within six months.

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