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EPA Bans Ongoing Uses of Asbestos

Mar 19, 2024

EPA has issued a final rule to prohibit ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos, the only known form of asbestos currently used in or imported to the U.S. Exposure to asbestos is known to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer, and it is linked to more than 40,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

“Asbestos is a known carcinogen that has severe impacts on public health," says EPA Administrator Michael Regan. "This action is just the beginning as we work to protect all American families, workers and communities from toxic chemicals.” 

Although there are several known types of asbestos, the only form known to be imported, processed or distributed for use in the U.S. is chrysotile. Raw chrysotile asbestos was imported as recently as 2022 for use by the chlor-alkali industry, a sector in which a limited number of facilities still use asbestos diaphragms to make sodium hydroxide and chlorine to disinfect drinking water and wastewater. Although most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued, the substance is still found in sheet gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes/linings, other vehicle friction products and other gaskets. 

“An immediate ban on the import of chrysotile asbestos for the chlor-alkali industry is a long overdue step forward for public health," says Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who has previously sponsored bills to ban asbestos.

The use of asbestos in the U.S. has been declining for decades, and its use is already banned in more than 50 countries.  EPA's ban is the first rule to be finalized under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The action marks a major milestone for chemical safety after more than three decades of lagging protections and regulatory delays. 

EPA has set compliance deadlines to transition away from each use of chrysotile asbestos, which are as soon as is practicable for each use while also providing a reasonable transition period. The final rule also:

  • Bans most sheet gaskets that contain asbestos two years after the effective date of the final rule, with five-year phase-outs for sheet gaskets to be used to produce titanium dioxide and for the processing of nuclear material. 
  • Allows asbestos-containing sheet gaskets to continue to be used through CY 2037 at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site so safe disposal of nuclear materials can continue on schedule while also protect workers from exposure to radioactive materials. 
  • Bans the use of asbestos in oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products and other gaskets six months after the effective date of the final rule. 

EPA is requiring strict workplace safety measures to protect workers from asbestos exposure during any phaseout periods that take longer than two years.

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