The Last type of asbestos used in the US is banned by the EPA

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a significant health and environmental milestone with the introduction of a comprehensive ban on the ongoing uses of asbestos.

This landmark regulation focuses on chrysotile asbestos, the last form of asbestos still used or imported into the United States. This measure marks an important step in aligning the U.S. with over fifty other countries that have already banned this hazardous material.

Chrysotile asbestos, the most prevalent form globally, has been primarily utilized in automotive components such as aftermarket brakes, linings, and other friction products, as well as in gaskets.

Asbestos is known for its thin, fibrous structure and properties like flexibility, resistance to corrosion, electricity, and heat, which made it a favored material in various applications including cigarette filters, hair dryers, and home insulation.

However, the dangers of asbestos, particularly its potential to break down into tiny, inhalable particles, have led to a significant reduction in its use following widespread recognition of its health risks.

The decision to ban asbestos comes after decades of declining use in the United States, driven by scientific discoveries linking asbestos exposure to over 40,000 deaths annually. These include fatal conditions such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and ovarian and laryngeal cancers.

The EPA’s announcement is not only a response to the material’s carcinogenic properties but also represents a significant shift in regulatory approach, aiming to rectify over three decades of what the agency deems “inadequate protections” due to “serious delays” under prior administrations.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan underscored the significance of this ban, emphasizing that the clear science behind asbestos’s severe health impacts necessitates immediate action. The ban serves as a testament to the Biden administration’s dedication to chemical safety and public health, reflecting an understanding of the long-standing concerns that asbestos has posed across generations.

To ensure a smooth transition away from asbestos, the EPA has established varying deadlines for different industries. Specifically, the automotive industry, including sectors dealing with brakes, linings, and other vehicle friction products, will face a ban effective six months following the rule’s finalization date.

Meanwhile, the chlor-alkali industry, which uses asbestos diaphragms in the production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide essential for water treatment, has been granted a longer transition period of at least five years to adopt alternative methods.

While the American Chemistry Council has expressed concerns regarding the transition timeline, advocating for a lengthier period to prevent disruptions in chlorine and sodium hydroxide supplies, the EPA insists on strict workplace safety measures to safeguard workers’ health during this phase-out period.

The announcement has been met with widespread approval from various stakeholders, including the AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the country, which lauded the EPA’s decision as a “landmark protection” for workers. However, while this ban is a critical step forward, it does not cover all types of asbestos fibers nor address the issue of “legacy” asbestos present in the nation’s aging buildings and infrastructure.

In addition to the current ban, the EPA disclosed its ongoing evaluation of legacy uses of asbestos and asbestos-containing talc. This initiative aims to extend the scope of asbestos regulation, underscoring the administration’s commitment to addressing all aspects of asbestos exposure risks.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon hailed the ban as a “long overdue step forward for public health,” emphasizing the necessity for continued legislative and regulatory efforts to phase out other hazardous asbestos fibers and enhance public health protections.

In summary, the EPA’s definitive ban on chrysotile asbestos marks a critical advancement in public health and environmental safety. It reflects a broader commitment to addressing the enduring challenges posed by asbestos exposure while setting a new standard for chemical safety and protection in the United States.

As this regulatory landscape evolves, it is essential for all stakeholders to collaborate in ensuring a safer, healthier future free from the perils of asbestos.

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