EPA Announces New Asbestos Ban

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A Federal Asbestos Ban

Today, March 18, 2024, a pivotal moment unfolds as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final rule banning the continued utilization of chrysotile asbestos, the sole form of asbestos presently used or imported into the United States. This asbestos ban on the ongoing use of the material is the first rule to be finalized under the Toxic Substance Control Act.

The agency’s asbestos ban targets chrysotile asbestos, or “white asbestos,” one of the six forms of asbestos, and the only form of the mineral still being used in the United States. Due to its heat-resistant properties, the mineral has been used by companies that make vehicle braking systems and gaskets. Chemical manufacturers have also defended its continued use of asbestos in certain chemical processes, like chlorine for water, as well as in pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement, “Folks, it’s been a long road. But with today’s ban, EPA is finally slamming the door on a chemical so dangerous that it has been banned in more than 50 countries.”

A Long Road to an Asbestos Ban

Today’s federal asbestos ban comes more than 30 years after the EPA first tried to illegalize asbestos in the United States. When the asbestos ban was first introduced, it was blocked by a federal judge. The federal courts’ decision in 1991 that allowed continued asbestos imports and use was a huge setback in protecting workers and their families from occupational asbestos exposure.

It wasn’t until 2016 that the asbestos conversation resurfaced, causing bipartisan concern in Congress. Congress voted to overhaul the law and gave the EPA sweeping authority to protect people from toxic substances such as asbestos. While there were many years of little action, the EPA had been rumored to be working on issuing a rule since 2021.

Under the new rule, imports of asbestos-containing brake locks will be phased out after six months; asbestos gaskets will be banned after two years.
Today’s ban on asbestos is the first time the nation’s updated chemical safety law has been used to outlaw a dangerous substance. While the use of asbestos in manufacturing and construction has declined over the years, it has remained a significant health threat for those who encounter it.

Asbestos as a Carcinogen

Asbestos has long been known as a carcinogenic material. Exposure to asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and throat cancer.

People can encounter asbestos in their homes, communities, or at work. When asbestos-containing products are disturbed, tiny fibers are released into the air. If these fibers are inhaled, eventually they can become lodged in the lungs. The body cannot expel these fibers, which eventually can cause inflammation, scarring, breathing difficulties, and various cancers, including Mesothelioma, which is almost always fatal.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Health, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all concluded that asbestos is a human carcinogen. Research shows that asbestos exposure can increase a person’s risk of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Individuals may encounter asbestos in their residences, communities, or workplaces. When products containing asbestos are disturbed, minuscule fibers are released into the atmosphere. If these fibers are inhaled, they can accumulate in the lungs, leading to inflammation, scarring, respiratory issues, and a range of cancers, notably mesothelioma.

Both the EPA, the U.S. Department of Health, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have affirmed asbestos as carcinogenic to humans. Studies indicate that exposure to asbestos heightens the likelihood of developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.

A Safer Path Forward

The EPA’s asbestos ban on chrysotile material represents a crucial step forward in safeguarding public health. The long-awaited action underlines the nation’s commitment to reducing asbestos-related risks, particularly in workplaces. By targeting the most commonly used form of asbestos and phasing out its importation, the EPA’s rule addresses a significant health hazard that has long harmed individuals who encounter asbestos. While this ban is a milestone achievement, ongoing vigilance and efforts in asbestos management and research remain imperative to ensure a safer environment for all.

Although the U.S. has just made a progressive step in protecting workers and their families from asbestos exposure, Serling & Abramson, P.C. has been fighting for victims of asbestos exposure for over 50 years. If you or a loved one has encountered asbestos and has now been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, Serling & Abramson, P.C. is here to help. Fill out our free case evaluation today to get started.