EPA Enacts Complete Asbestos Ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday a complete ban on asbestosa carcinogen that kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, but is still used in some chlorine bleaches, brake pads and other products.

The final rule marks a significant expansion of EPA regulation under a landmark law from 2016 which reviewed regulations governing tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

The new rule would ban chrysotile asbestos, the only current use of asbestos in the United States. The substance is found in products such as brake linings and gaskets and is used to make chlorine bleach and sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, including some used for water purification.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan called the final rule an important step to protect public health.

“With today’s ban, EPA is finally closing the door on a chemical so dangerous that it has been banned in more than 50 countries,” Regan said. “This historic ban has been more than 30 years in the making and is thanks to amendments that Congress made in 2016 to correct the Toxic Substances Control Act,” the main US law that regulates the use of chemical substances.

Exposure to asbestos is known to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other types of cancer, and is linked to more than 40,000 deaths in the United States each year. Ending the current uses of asbestos furthers the goals of President Joe Biden’s lunar cancer plana government-wide initiative to end cancer in the United States, Regan said.

“The science is clear: asbestos is a known carcinogen that has serious public health impacts. This action is just the beginning as we work to protect all American families, workers and communities from toxic chemicals,” Regan said.

The 2016 law authorized new rules for tens of thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products, including substances like asbestos and trichlorethylene that have been known for decades to cause cancer but were largely unregulated under federal law. Known as the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety ActThe law was intended to clarify a hodgepodge of state rules governing chemicals and update the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 1976 law that had remained unchanged for 40 years.

The EPA banned asbestos in 1989, but the rule was largely repealed by a 1991 Court of Appeal decision that weakened EPA’s authority under TSCA to address human health risks from asbestos or other existing chemicals. The 2016 law required the EPA to evaluate chemicals and establish protections against unreasonable risks.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has banned asbestos once and for all. The carcinogen was still used in some items, including chlorine bleach and brake pads. #EPA #asbestos

Asbestos, once common in home insulation and other products, is banned in more than 50 countries and its use in the United States has been declining for decades. The only form of asbestos currently known to be imported, processed, or distributed for use in the United States is chrysotile asbestos, which is imported primarily from Brazil and Russia. It is used by the chlor-alkali industry, which produces bleach, caustic soda, and other products.

Most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued.

While chlorine is a commonly used disinfectant in water treatment, there are only eight chlor-alkali plants in the U.S. that still use asbestos diaphragms to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide. The plants are located primarily in Louisiana and Texas.

The use of asbestos diaphragms has been declining and now accounts for less than a third of chlor-alkali production in the United States, the EPA said.

The EPA rule will ban imports of asbestos for chloralkali as soon as it is published, but will introduce gradual bans on the use of chloralkali over five or more years to provide what the agency called “a reasonable transition period.” .

The ban on most other uses of asbestos will take effect in two years.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents 350 publicly owned wastewater treatment agencies, said before the final rule was announced that an immediate ban on asbestos “would almost certainly lead to chlorine shortages and price increases.” and other disinfection and treatment chemicals used by the community.” water sector.”

The American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s largest lobbying group, said a 15-year transition period is needed to avoid a significant disruption to chlorine and sodium hydroxide supplies.

The ban on asbestos in oilfield brake pads, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings and other gaskets will take effect in six months.

EPA rule allows use of asbestos-containing sheet gaskets through 2037 at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina to ensure safe disposal of nuclear materials can continue as planned .

Scott Faber, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that pushed to ban asbestos, praised the EPA’s action.

“For too long, polluters have been allowed to manufacture, use and release toxic substances like asbestos and PFAS without regard for our health,” Faber said. “Thanks to Biden’s EPA leadership, those days are finally over.”

Separately, the EPA is also evaluating so-called legacy uses of asbestos in older buildings, including schools and industrial sites, to determine potential public health risks. A final risk assessment is expected by the end of the year.

Leave a Comment