WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is proposing a rule to ban ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos. This is also the first rule the agency has proposed under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that was enacted in 2016.
“Today, we’re taking an important step forward to protect public health and finally put an end to the use of dangerous asbestos in the United States,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This historic proposed ban would protect the American people from exposure to chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, and demonstrates significant progress in our work to implement the TSCA law and take bold, long-overdue actions to protect those most vulnerable among us.”
The EPA first tried to ban asbestos in 1989 using authority in the original TSCA enacted in 1976. However, most uses asbestos have remained legal since the agency lost a court challenge to the ban in 1991. As a result of that ruling and new burdens it created for regulation, the EPA largely stopped trying to regulate existing chemicals under the original version of TSCA. Concerns over continued legal uses of asbestos was a major driving force behind the 2016 TSCA overhaul.
The EPA began reviewing the safety of asbestos in 2016 after enactment of the new TSCA. In 2017, the Trump EPA tried to narrow the scope of its analysis of asbestos by ignoring exposures from phased-out, or “legacy,” uses of asbestos. The Environmental Working Group and other advocates challenged this practice, and in 2019, the EPA was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to address both legacy and ongoing uses of asbestos.
The proposed rule is limited to ongoing uses of asbestos based on the EPA’s evaluation of non-legacy uses. The proposed rule is also limited to one type of asbestos, chrysotile. The EPA is in the process of drafting a supplemental safety evaluation in accordance with the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, which could lead to additional regulatory actions addressing legacy uses, asbestos contamination in other minerals like talc, and different types of asbestos fibers.
EPA is also proposing targeted disposal and recordkeeping requirements in line with industry standards, Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, and the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). The proposed disposal and recordkeeping requirements would take effect 180 days after the effective date of the final rule.
Use of asbestos in the U.S. has been declining for decades, and its use is banned in over 50 countries. Although there are several known types, the only form of asbestos known to be currently imported, processed, or distributed for use in the U.S. is chrysotile. Raw chrysotile asbestos currently imported into the U.S. is used exclusively by the chlor-alkali industry. Most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued. In December 2020, EPA issued a final risk evaluation that found unreasonable risks to human health from conditions of use associated with six categories of products.
EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for chrysotile asbestos for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0057 at regulations.gov.