Hold on OMB Nomination Prompted Release of Asbestos Bulletin

OSHA's long-awaited asbestos information bulletin informing auto mechanics of the dangers of asbestos-ridden automotive brakes and clutches was released on July 26 because the new deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) could not be confirmed unless the document was made public, according to a Senate source.

Sen. Patricia Murray, D-Wa., who had been heavily advocating for a complete ban of asbestos products in the United States, placed a legislative "hold" on the nomination of Stephen McMillin for OMB deputy director when she learned OMB ordered OSHA to shelve the publication which was due to be released on March 25, 2005 in fear of potential lawsuits against auto and parts manufacturers for asbestos-related diseases.

When OMB released the information bulletin, Asbestos-Automotive Brake and Clutch Repair Work, for publication on July 26, Murray released her hold on McMillin's nomination and he was confirmed on July 28.

A Senate source told Occupationalhazards.com Murray met with McMillin before the confirmation hearings and told him his nomination would be placed on hold unless OSHA would issue the asbestos bulletin without any change in the original text. The next day OMB said it would address Murray's concerns and proceeded to publish the bulletin.

The Senate source also informed Occupationalhazards.com OMB had said they weren't purposely holding up the information bulletin, but that it was just part of the review process.

An OSHA spokesperson told Occupationalhazards.com the agency published the bulletin when it was cleared and ready to be published. The spokesperson would not comment on the timing of the bulletin's release.

A call placed by Occupationalhazards.com to OMB seeking comment was not returned.

Many Car Parts Still Contain Asbestos

In a hearing held in Washington on May 11, Murray questioned OMB Director Robert Portman on why the agency has delayed the release of safety rules to protect American workers and consumers, since new reports indicate imports of brake materials containing asbestos have increased 83 percent in the past decade.

The asbestos information document, which is not a standard or regulation, was created to alert employers and employees about the potential exposure to asbestos and the appropriate precautions to take when working with automotive brakes and clutches containing asbestos. It offers four types of control measures that can effectively reduce employees' asbestos exposure.

Many brakes and clutches on cars, trucks and on auto parts shelves still contain dangerous levels of the material, although it is not generally used in the production of new brakes or clutches.

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