December 29, 2002 12:19 PM   Subscribe

White House halts asbestos alert WASHINGTON (AP) - A warning from the Environmental Protection Agency, informing millions of Americans their homes might contain asbestos-contaminated insulation, has not been issued because of White House intervention, a newspaper reports. The EPA was expected to announce the warning in April, and declare a public health emergency concerning Zonolite insulation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in its Sunday editions.
posted by Captain Ligntning (25 comments total)
wait a minute. is this time-shifted from the 70's?
[bangs his tivo]
posted by quonsar at 12:31 PM on December 29, 2002

According to the AP article, both the EPA and OMB refused a FOIA request. According to the Department of Justice,
The FOIA provides access to all federal agency records (or portions of those records), except for those records that are withheld under any of nine exemptions or three exclusions […]

The exemptions authorize federal agencies to withhold information covering: (1) classified national defense and foreign relations information; (2) internal agency rules and practices; (3) information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law; (4) trade secrets and other confidential business information; (5) inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges; (6) information involving matters of personal privacy; (7) certain types of information compiled for law enforcement purposes; (8) information relating to the supervision of financial institutions; and (9) geological information on wells. The three exclusions, which are rarely used, pertain to especially sensitive law enforcement and national security matters.
posted by hattifattener at 1:13 PM on December 29, 2002

Well isn't that swell. Yet another example of how money talks in Washington.
posted by damnitkage at 1:21 PM on December 29, 2002

Time for a revolution. Could the corruption be more blatantly flaunted?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:53 PM on December 29, 2002

Andrew Schneider's original article from the Sunday Post-Dispatch. [PD links expire after seven days]
posted by bradlands at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2002

Time for a revolution. Could the corruption be more blatantly flaunted?

From the article:

The asbestos in Zonolite, like all asbestos products, is believed to be either a minimal health risk or no risk if it is not disturbed. Asbestos fibers must be airborne to be inhaled.

You can have your revolution, but I won't be part of it. Personally, I am sick of the government and the media scaring people into hysterics when the solution -- an EPA warning -- would probably cause more harm than doing nothing.
posted by Durwood at 3:38 PM on December 29, 2002

Personally, I am sick of the government and the media scaring people into hysterics when the solution -- an EPA warning -- would probably cause more harm than doing nothing.

Yes, because knowledge is dangerous.
posted by machaus at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2002

No, Machaus, probably because the cleanup would end in the disturbing of the asbestos, firing the fibers into the air.

HOWEVER, I'm unable to think of a way that this is a good idea.

W.R. Grace are the same people that poisoned Woburn in A Civil Action, aren't they? Grace and some others?
posted by swerdloff at 4:06 PM on December 29, 2002

Swerdloff, it seems to me that all of this insulation is going to be disturbed at some point or another, since no building lasts forever. A warning would indicate to people that they shouldn't disturb the asbestos without proper precautions (i.e., it should be abated professionally). I'm not disputing the fact that some people would overreact - but better to overreact safely, than to act in the absence of knowledge.
posted by stonerose at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2002

Out, go out demon of stupidity !!!

Asbestos is deadly , find out more here
And if asbestos isn't that bad...why don't the naysayers use it in their houses ? After all asbestos products price is going to drop to 0, ahh the wonders of the free market ! Side note: given that the government didn't allow asbestos prices to drop to 0 , this is yet another government interference on free market ! Ahh, the wonders of market rules as seen by minor habens !
posted by elpapacito at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2002

>And if asbestos isn't that bad...why don't the naysayers use it in their houses ?

They used it in my high school. They used lead pipes in my elementary school. They used more asbestos in a camp I once went to.

Guess what? No teachers got sick, or died, and neither did any students (that I know of). I'm surprisingly not sick for a man of my size -- I haven't been treated in hospital for anything for over 20 years.

Guess why? Because, surprisingly, they (and myself ;-) aren't morons. I certainly wouldn't be using any more of the stuff, but if you're not working with it, I don't think you're in such a horrible danger. Although, each to their own. I can understand why you'd feel uncomfortable living with asbestos.

According to this, between 1 in 5000 to 750 asbestos workers die due to asbestos. Well... colour me silly, but if people working directly with it are more likely to get tetanus than die from working with asbestos, I don't feel all that unsafe in a house with it in if I'm not mucking about with the stuff. But that's just me. You should all do what you feel is safest for yourself.

Knowledge sure can be dangerous. Imagine going up to a KKK member and showing them proof that whiltes and blacks are identical, other than the fact that black people have more melanin.
posted by shepd at 6:39 PM on December 29, 2002

You're forgetting they dance better. And can jump. Etc. We hold those truths to be self evident.

America is still a very racist country, even if it doesn't seem to matter.
posted by KettleBlack at 8:38 PM on December 29, 2002

From asbestos to racism in only twelve comments.

Only on Metafilter.
posted by dhoyt at 8:54 PM on December 29, 2002

Shouldn't Hitler be mentioned soon?

Now it's not even safe to stay home.
posted by MaddCutty at 9:25 PM on December 29, 2002

Oh, play fair people. I really don't think I'm being racist. Do you? Sorry if you do. Maybe you don't know what melanin is. HTH. It's really nothing special at all, and is the physical reason why black people are black. Did I violate some sort of racism rule by mentioning the only thing that separates us?

Sorry if I did violate an unspoken rule. It certainly, in this case, was totally unintentional.
posted by shepd at 10:56 PM on December 29, 2002

There I go shooting off my mouth for no reason again. I missed KettleBlack's comment, and thought the rest of the comments were directed at me...

Must... pull... foot... from... mouth.

Ahh... now I can breathe again! Finally! :-)

Now, if only I could make a omlette with all this egg dripping from my face. Mmmmmmmm... omlettes... With Aunt Jemima syrup.
posted by shepd at 2:23 AM on December 30, 2002

(I actually didn't mean anyone was being racist, just poking fun at kettleblack's topic drift and Metafilter's obsession with racists)
posted by dhoyt at 6:07 AM on December 30, 2002

metafilter has an obsession with racists? can you back that up with linkage? i think if metafilter has an obsession it is with itself.

on topic, this sort of thing will be business as usual as long as the bushino crime family is in power. someday they will ask a favor of the insulation industry.

also on topic, my first comment above wasn't a snark. asbestos was a big friggin' deal in the 70's. i thought by now EVERYBODY knew it was dangerous and in numerous structures. they "abated" most of the asbestos in the WTC by stripping it out or sealing it as it was being built or shortly thereafter. is the difference here that it involves single family homes?
posted by quonsar at 6:48 AM on December 30, 2002

shepd: The fact that you were lucky and nobody was harmed in your location by asbestos doesn't make it less dangerous ; for instance many people lived many years around sleeping threats, like volcanoes, just to suddendly notice how bad is to live with a sleeping or hidden threat near you.

Now you can't remove a volcano, you just don't live around one , or if you like economics, you're financing the fact you could buy a house for cheap near a volcano by taking a risk, the risk that volcano will wipe you and the house away.

But asbestos is entirely a different thing, much more dangerous then a volcano. For instance it's hidden, sometimes cleverly hidden into other materials, you just can't see it or be aware of it, unless somebody with a clue tells you "look this insulation is made of asbestos" , a job for EPA. So from the economic point of view, you paid your house less because the asbestos insulation was cheaper and/or more effective, but you're financing this cheapness with a HIDDEN risk on your life.

Hidden because some moron values your/my life less then the cost he/she is going to suffer to completely remove asbestos : I'd gladly hang such persons because what they do is mixing MY health (priceless) with THEIR profits.
In fact what they need is some poisonous material known as lead right into the middle of their brain to realize health is priceless.

About statistics: remember that, even if there is one in a kazillion chances that you're going to die due to that does NOT mean you're less likely to die due to it : that just means that, according to the HISTORICAL data , only a few person death was directly correlated with asbestos. But nobody cares about historical data, it's useless by definition because it doesn't tell you if and when in the future you're likely to be poisoned by asbestos.

In other words, the fact that you didn't die because of asbestos in the past doesn't make you safer, it just means you were lucky enough to avoid it. That's why for your and my interest anything asbestos based must be eliminated, no matter how much is going to cost, unless you want to put a pricetag on your life, then I'll buy yours for some price to get your healthy organs.

posted by elpapacito at 7:20 AM on December 30, 2002

Here at Metafilter, we'll do asbestos we can. (ducks)

"if metafilter has an obsession it is with itself" -- that oughta be right under the logo, quonsar.
posted by alumshubby at 8:32 AM on December 30, 2002

Well, yeah, to a certian extent, Asbestos is safe - everyone's right on this one - until it's disturbed. Then you have folks that are coming down with everything from asthma to cancer. My dad has mesothelioma, Asbestos-exposure cancer, and no one can figure out exactly how he got it - was it when his Asbestos-wrapped furnace was replaced in his childhood home in 1955? Was it when Asbestos tiles were removed from his office circa 1980? Or maybe it had nothing to do with Asbestos, rather, it came from a contaminated Polio vaccine. Who knows?

My point is, I guess, that there are so many ways that your environment can kill you - I personally believe that, in a lot of cases, ignorance is bliss. If I knew that my home contained Asbestos-contaminated insulation, I'd leave well enough alone. Asbestos is completely safe until it's airborne - if I have Asbestos in my house, I'm leaving it. I'm not going to risk any exposure until I know I absolutely have to. Hey, it's actually quite an effective insulation.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:36 AM on December 30, 2002

someday they will ask a favor of the insulation industry.

The big deal over asbestos in the Duhbya cabal has to do with Unka Dick and Halliburton. I will leave the research to you gentle readers.
posted by nofundy at 8:37 AM on December 30, 2002

I think asbestos hysteria has done enough damage.
posted by MarkO at 7:41 PM on December 30, 2002

Cheney does have invested interests concerning asbestos liabilities, though I don't see how withholding this warning helps him or Halliburton's legal troubles.

MarkO: I can't tell if your being saracstic or not. That Fox story is one of the sadest, sickest things I've read in awhile. How can conservative right-wing apologistas sleep at night? The right does nothing but use the WTC disaster as a propaganda foil for whatever policy is being pursued by the W whitehouse. It's truely sickening to see how cynical the current administration is.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:20 PM on January 1, 2003

I don't know how I could have been sarcastic, it seems pretty straightforward to me:

1) Construction companies determine superiority of asbestos through years of use and testing. Thousands of lives saved from fire protection.

2) A few people get sick from high concentrations and the public goes beserk. Lawmakers see problem in terms of "solutions" instead of "trade-offs" and quickly rush to ban it. Who will die needlessly as a result? Who cares!

3) Couple of planes run into poorly fireproofed towers, which proptly collapse earlier than planned. Thousands of lives lost.

My last post was a little tongue-in-cheek (as was this one), but the point is that not all problems are one-sided but in fact involve trade-offs. I'm wouldn't say that the current administration is "sickening", maybe "realistic" is a better word.

And if you're anti-Fox, how about NYT? Or maybe this guy who blames the left and the right for the disaster.
posted by MarkO at 1:54 PM on January 3, 2003

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