Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


EPA is banning the import and use of asbestos

Photo: LightFieldStudios/iStockphoto

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency will ban the use and import of chrysotile asbestos – a known human carcinogen – under a final rule announced March 18.

Linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma – a cancer of the membranes in the abdomen and chest – chrysotile asbestos is the only known form of asbestos imported into the United States. It’s found in products such as aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, brake blocks, sheet gaskets, and other vehicle friction products.

EPA’s ban represents the first risk-management rule issued under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which requires existing chemicals to undergo a risk evaluation. Asbestos kills about 40,000 Americans a year, the American Public Health Association says.

An EPA press release states that the import of chrysotile asbestos will be banned as of the final rule’s effective date. However, compliance deadlines banning various other uses may not come until years later. Deadlines “are as soon as is practicable for each use while also providing a reasonable transition period, which the law requires.”

Agency administrator Michael Regan added that the “science is clear” and the severe impacts on public health caused by exposure to asbestos “has spanned generations and impacted the lives of countless people. That’s why EPA is so proud to finalize this long-needed ban on ongoing uses of asbestos.”

In a separate release, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said the rule “will undoubtedly save lives and prevent countless exposures that endanger working families.”

Shuler added: “This rule is a landmark protection for workers, banning and phasing out all current uses and imports of chrysotile asbestos, and eliminating these exposures in workplaces and throughout the supply chain.”

EPA published a proposed rule to ban the use of chrysotile asbestos in April 2022.

On Jan. 4, 2021, the agency announced Part 1 of a final risk evaluation for asbestos, which focused on chrysotile asbestos. In December of that year, EPA announced Part 2 of the evaluation, centering on legacy uses and disposal of asbestos, as well as five additional types of asbestos fiber apart from chrysotile.

Part 2 of the evaluation is set to be finalized by the end of the year, EPA says in its release, adding that it expects to publish the corresponding draft risk evaluation soon.

“Closing the door to chrysotile imports is a historic step,” Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization President Linda Reinstein said in a press release, “but the EPA rule does not restrict importation and use of five other recognized asbestos fibers.

“Users of raw asbestos and asbestos-containing brake blocks and gaskets in the chlor-alkali, brake block, chemical and refining sectors will finally be required to transition to non-asbestos technology, but we are alarmed that the rule allows an unnecessarily long transition period and creates inconsistent compliance deadlines for certain asbestos users, which will allow dangerous exposure to chrysotile asbestos to continue for years to come.”

In March 2023, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Susan Bonamici (D-OR) reintroduced legislation aimed at eliminating human and environmental exposure to asbestos. The bill is named for Reinstein’s late husband, Alan, who died from mesothelioma in 2006.

“Today’s rule is a positive first step to give all Americans a future free of exposure to asbestos – a carcinogen that has killed far too many,” Merkley said in a release. “This dangerous substance has been banned in more than 50 countries around the world, and the United States is finally starting to catch up.”

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Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication