Federal agency threatens asbestos-warning writer with suspension

What if we said a federal agency was pressuring one of its own to weaken an environmental opinion? Crazy, right? But it’s true. Again. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a warning this summer that brakes could contain asbestos, putting mechanics at risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Three weeks later, former OSHA head John Henshaw apparently requested that the alert be changed to include industry-financed studies saying eh, asbestos isn’t so bad. Henshaw — allegedly linked with firms used by the Big Three automakers to fight asbestos lawsuits — says the carcinogen is no longer used in the U.S., but critics say otherwise. What to do? Last week, OSHA opted for bullying, by threatening scientist Ira Wainless with a 10-day, unpaid suspension if he didn’t change the warning. He has, so far, refused. “It is outrageous,” said government-employee union rep Ed Stern, “that OSHA would try to intimidate one of its own scientists for doing his job with integrity.”