EPA Bans Last Uses of Toxic Asbestos in the United States

The rule includes new workplace safety requirements for those industries given more than two years to phase out chrysotile asbestos.

The Biden Administration has announced the finalization of a rule which bans the use of chrysotile asbestos; the last form of asbestos legal to use in the United States, due to the well-established health risks that continue to result from asbestos exposure.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on March 18, indicating the asbestos ban is the first rule finalized under the 2016 changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and is also a part of President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” program, which hopes to end the threat of cancer in the U.S.

It has been known for about a century that asbestos exposure cause a number of serious health conditions, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, although information about the risk was not widely publicized until about 1964. Most modern, first-world countries banned asbestos use in its entirety decades ago. However, the United States has continued to allow some forms of asbestos to be used until modern day.

Mesothelioma lawsuits are part of the largest mass-tort in U.S. history, with more than 600,000 people having filed a case against more than 6,000 defendants due to injuries caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. In addition to individuals directly exposed to asbestos, a growing number of the lawsuits filed in recent years have involved second-hand exposure among individuals who inhaled fibers carried on on the clothes or in the hair of their parents when they were children.

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Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Exposure to asbestos can cause the development of mesothelioma. Lawsuits have been filed nationwide against asbestos manufacturers.

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The EPA asbestos ban was proposed in April 2022, after a final risk evaluation was conducted by the agency in December 2020, which found unreasonable risks to human health from conditions of use associated with six categories of products that included asbestos use in the chlor-alkali industry, sheet gaskets, oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linins and other vehicle friction products.

Most uses of asbestos were banned decades ago in the United States, due to the risk of mesothelioma and other injuries, which may develop decades after exposure to the toxic fibers.

“The science is clear – asbestos is a known carcinogen that has severe impacts on public health,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in the press release. “President Biden understands that this concern that 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.”

Chrysotile Asbestos is the only form of the chemical known to be imported, processed or distributed in the U.S. It is used to help disinfect drinking water and wastewater, and was widely found in a variety of products in the past.

EPA Asbestos Ban

The EPA rule bans the import of chrysotile asbestos into the United States immediately, indicating that industries should transition away from using chrysotile asbestos as soon as possible, incorporating various compliance deadlines to provide industries with a reasonable transition period, the press release indicates.

The rule also bans most sheet gaskets containing asbestos, giving manufacturers two years to comply, including a five-year phase-out for sheet gaskets used to make titanium oxide and processing nuclear material. It also gives six months before asbestos use is banned in oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, and similar products.

However, the rule allows the continued use sheet gaskets containing asbestos at the Department of Energy Savannah River Site until 2037, which the agency says is key to ensure proper and safe disposal of nuclear materials.

The ban also puts in place stringent workplace safety measures to protect workers from asbestos exposure for any industry that has a phaseout period of longer than two years. It also includes rules for disposing of asbestos properly.

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