Energy & Environment

EPA proposes ban on common type of asbestos

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday proposed a major step to limit exposure to asbestos, a carcinogen that kills 40,000 Americans each year. 

The EPA proposed to ban imports, manufacturing, processing and distribution of a type of asbestos called chrysotile asbestos.

Chrysotile asbestos, the most commonly used type of asbestos, is found in car brakes and linings, gaskets and other products. 

In 1989, the agency tried to ban asbestos, but that was largely overturned in a 1991 court decision. The agency said in a statement that its new decision would “rectify” that ruling. 

The rule also stands in contrast with a Trump-era rule on asbestos that sought to require federal approval for any manufacture or import of certain products that use asbestos. 

The Trump rule received significant criticism from environmental and health advocates for stopping short of a ban.

“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 Regan said in a statement on the agency’s latest action.

“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 [Toxic Substances Control Act] law and take bold, long-overdue actions to protect those most vulnerable among us,” he said. 

Asbestos has been associated with respiratory issues including lung cancer; mesothelioma, a cancer that is found in the lining of the lungs and abdomen; and asbestosis, a lung disease.

The use of asbestos has been falling over several decades, and most consumer products that had previously used it have been discontinued.

According to the EPA, chrysotile is the only type of asbestos that is currently imported, processed or distributed in the U.S.

Tuesday’s proposal would bar the manufacture, processing and distribution of chrysotile asbestos in asbestos diaphragms, sheet gaskets, oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products and other gaskets

The agency also said in a statement that while its current proposal does not address past uses of asbestos, the agency is “evaluating” legacy uses and disposals.

Updated at 1:33 p.m.

Tags EPA Michael Regan Regulations

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