About EPA

Lead Contamination Control and Asbestos Information Acts of 1988

[EPA press release - November 1, 1988]

The White House announced today that President Reagan has singed into law the following legislation:

  • Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988, which deals with the recall of lead-lined drinking water coolers;

  • Asbestos Information Act of 1988, which will require manufacturers to submit information on asbestos to EPA.

Fact sheets concerning the new laws are attached.


Section-by-Section Analysis of H.R. 4939, the "Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988" As Enacted

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

The Act may be cited as the "Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988."

SECTION 2. LEAD IN DRINKING WATER COOLERS AND IN SCHOOL DRINKING WATER.

This section amends the Safe Drinking Water Act by adding a new part at the end entitled "Part F--Additional Requirements to Regulate the Safety of Drinking Water." The new part contains the following new sections:

Sec. 1461. Definitions.

This section defines the terms "drinking water cooler," "lead free," "local educational agency," "repair," "replacement," "school," and "lead-lined tank."

Sec. 1462. Recall of Drinking Water Coolers with Lead-Lined Tanks.

For purposes of the Consumer Product Safety Act, all drinking water coolers identified by EPA under section 1463 as having a lead-lined tank would be considered to be "imminently hazardous consumer products." The CPSC would have to issue an order requiring the manufacturers and importers of such coolers to repair, replace, or recall and provide a refund for the coolers within one year after enactment.

Sect. 1463. Drinking Water Coolers Containing Lead.

EPA is required, after notice and opportunity for public comment and within 100 days of enactment, to publish, using the best information available to EPA, a list identifying each brand and model of drinking water cooler which is not lead free as well as each brand and model of drinking water cooler which has a lead-lined tank.

Selling and Manufacturing Prohibition

This section prohibits any person from selling in interstate commerce, or to manufacture for sale in interstate commerce, any drinking water cooler which is listed under this section or any other cooler which is not lead free, including a lead-lined water cooler.

Penalties and Civil Action

The criminal penalty for knowing violation of the prohibition could be imprisonment for up to 5 years or a fine in accordance with title 18 of the U.S.C. EPA is empowered to bring a civil action against a violator. The district court may levy a civil penalty of up to $5000, or up to $50,000 for repeat offenders.

Sec. 1464. Lead Contamination in School Drinking Water.

Within 100 days of enactment, EPA is required to distribute to the States a list of each brand and model of drinking water cooler identified and listed under the previous section.

Within 100 days after enactment, EPA is required to publish and distribute to the States a guidance document and testing protocol to assist schools in determining the source and degree of lead contamination in school drinking water supplies and in remedying such contamination. The guidance document must contain: guidelines for sample preservation; guidance to assist States, schools, and the public in ascertaining the levels of lead contamination in drinking water coolers and in taking appropriate action to reduce or eliminate such contamination; and a testing protocol for the identification of drinking water coolers which contribute to lead contamination in drinking water.

States are required to disseminate the guidance document, testing protocol, and EPA lists to local education agencies, private nonprofit elementary or secondary schools and day care centers.

In addition, States, within 9 months of enactment, are required to establish a program to assist local education agencies in testing for, and remedying, lead contamination in drinking water from coolers and from other sources of lead contamination at schools. The program would have to include measures for reduction or elimination of lead contamination from all listed water coolers containing lead-lined tanks located in schools by ensuring that they are repaired, permanently removed, or replaced within 15 months after enactment (except where the cooler is tested and found not to contribute any lead to drinking water).

Sec. 1465. Federal Assistance for State Programs Regarding Lead Contamination in School Drinking Water.

EPA is required to make grants to States to establish and carry out the programs under section 1464 to assist local education agencies in testing for, and remedying, lead contamination in drinking water at schools. This new section provides certain limitations on the use of such grants. Authorizes appropriations of $30 million for each of fiscal years 1989 through 1991.

SECTION 3. LEAD POISONING PREVENTION.

The Public Health Service Act is amended by adding a new section after section 317:

Sec. 317A. Lead Poisoning Prevention.

This new section requires HHS, acting through the Centers for Disease Control, to make grants to States and local governments for the initiation and expansion of programs to provide intensive community testing programs designed to: (1) screen infants and children for elevated blood levels; (2) assure referral for treatment of infants and children with elevated blood lead levels, and (3) provide education about childhood lead poisoning.

The section contains stipulations regarding the disbursement of the grants. The section also contains authorization of appropriations for this program of $20 million for FY 1989, $22 million for FY 1990, and $24 million for FY 1991.

SECTION 4. CERTIFICATION OF TESTING LABORATORIES.

EPA is required to assure that programs for the certification of testing laboratories which test drinking water supplies for lead contamination certify only those labs which provide reliable, accurate testing. EPA or the delegated State must publish and make available upon request the list of laboratories certified.

SECTION 5. CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.

This section amends sec. 1445 of the SDWA to make it clear that EPA may use this records and inspection section for purposes of this Act.


H.R. 5442--Asbestos Information Act of 1988
Purpose and Section-by-Section Analysis

PURPOSE

This legislation is intended to facilitate the early identification of the manufacturer or processor of a particular type of asbestos or asbestos-containing material. Earlier identification should help reduce the time and costs associated with naming parties as defendants in asbestos litigation in which the products manufactured or processed by such person were not used in building which is the subject of the litigation. To accomplish this purpose, H.R. 5442 requires asbestos product manufacturers to submit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), information on the types or classes of products, the years of manufacture, and other identifying characteristics of their asbestos-containing products. EPA must then publish this information.

EPA estimates that asbestos-containing material was used in the construction of some 750,000 public and commercial buildings in the United States. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen which can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis when airborne fibers of the substance are inhaled. Because of this, many building owners have undertaken abatement projects to reduce asbestos exposure in their buildings. More abatement projects can be expected in the future.

Many owners have sued or will sue asbestos manufacturers for the cost of the abatement action. Plaintiffs in such asbestos cases often sue almost all asbestos manufacturing companies in the hope of recovering damages even though many of the companies may not have even produced the type of asbestos product in question. It is not uncommon to see as many as 50 manufacturers listed as defendants in an asbestos property damage case because of the lack of information about the identity of such materials, especially in preparation for the proceedings.

In these cases, defendants are reluctant to settle a case in which their product may not be present and plaintiffs are reluctant to overlook a possible supplier of asbestos materials as a defendant. Judges are reluctant to press either side to make concessions, thereby prolonging the case. The reluctance of all parties to push the case forward or to end it is often due to the unavailability of critical information to both claimants and defendants.

It is our hope that by making this information available at the initiation of a suit, the number of suppliers of asbestos-containing materials typically joined as defendants in asbestos property damage lawsuits might be substantially reduced. While the information may not help a plaintiff or court to identify with certainty the appropriate manufacturer(s) to name as defendant(s), it should help to eliminate from potential litigation those manufacturers that could not reasonably have been involved in producing the asbestos in question.

By making this information available at the start of judicial proceedings, procedural delays caused by the search for it or by litigation over its disclosure once a lawsuit is undertaken can be reduced. This information will also help to relieve the case load of a court system that is already heavily burdened. Manufacturers whose products are not present in the buildings can be spared being involved in lengthy proceedings. Cases may then be resolved in a more rapid fashion instead of the current situation where both building owners and manufacturers are ill-served by a system that prolongs the resolution of a case while costs for both sides inexorably mount.

SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

Section 1: SHORT TITLE

The short title of the legislation is the "Asbestos Information Act of 1988."

Section 2: SUBMISSION OF INFORMATION BY MANUFACTURERS

This section requires any person who manufactured or processed asbestos or asbestos containing material that was prepared for sale or for use as surfacing material, thermal system insulation, or miscellaneous material in buildings to submit to the Administrator of EPA, within 90 days after the date of enactment: the years of manufacture; the types or classes of product; and to the extent available, other identifying characteristics reasonably necessary to identify or distinguish the asbestos or asbestos containing material. The purpose of this requirement is to facilitate the early identification of the manufacturer or processor of a particular type of asbestos or asbestos-containing material. It is our expectation that this early identification will help reduce the time and costs associated with naming parties as defendants in asbestos litigation in which the products manufactured or processed by such person were not used in the building which is the subject of the litigation.

In setting up this requirement, we are aware that not every product subject to the requirements of section 2 can best be identified by a description of the chemical or mineral constituents of the asbestos or material by weight or volume. By using the phrase "to the extent available," we do not intend that manufacturers must submit all information that exists regarding their products. Rather, this phrase must be read in conjunction with the phrase "reasonably necessary." In other words, of the information that manufacturers currently possess, they need only submit the information reasonably necessary to identify or distinguish the asbestos or asbestos containing material they manufactured.

For example, in most cases of asbestos-containing floor tile products, it is our understanding that, without regard to the availability of the mineral or chemical constituents (or both) of the asbestos or material by weight or by volume (or both), which does not exist for every type of floor tile made, in almost all situations the most accurate and least expensive way to identify the manufacturer of a floor tile is through examination of designs, patterns or textures of the floor tile. In addition, this assessment technique does not require the disturbance of the in-place material. Under the circumstances, it is our intent that any person who manufactured asbestos-containing floor tiles would, by the submission to EPA of the designs, patterns or textures of the products covered by section 2, be in compliance with the requirements of that section.

Section 3: PUBLICATION OF INFORMATION

This section requires the EPA Administrator to publish within 180 days after enactment the information submitted by the manufacturers. The EPA role under this bill is a narrow one: to inform asbestos manufacturers how, when, and where to submit the required information and then to receive, organize, and publish that information. In carrying out his responsibilities under this section, the Administrator may not review the submitted information for accuracy, or to analyze it to determine whether such information serves to identify or distinguish the particular asbestos or asbestos-containing material.

Section 4: DEFINITIONS

This section defines the following terms in the bill: asbestos, asbestos-containing material, identifying characteristics, miscellaneous material, protocol, surfacing material, and thermal system insulation.