Update: EPA Bans Ongoing Uses of Asbestos

Posted on 3/19/2024 by Nick Waldron

Update 03/28/24 

This final rule takes effect May 28, 2024.
Read the final rule here.

On March 18, 2024, US EPA announced the prohibition of ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos with a Final Rule. The ban is the first rule finalized under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

This rule bans:

  • The import of asbestos for chlor-alkali use immediately.
  • Most sheet gaskets that contain asbestos two years after the effective date of the final rule, with five-year phase-outs for some sheet gaskets.*
  • Use of asbestos in oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products, and other gaskets six months after the effective date of the final rule.

* A five-year phaseout period applies to sheet gaskets used in titanium dioxide production and the processing of nuclear material.

The rule enacts strict workplace safety measures to protect workers from asbestos exposure during any phase out periods longer than two years. The Final Rule also aims to ensure that asbestos is disposed of in line with industry standards, OSHA requirements, and the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).

The new rule also imposes recordkeeping requirements.

EPA will release Part 2 of its draft risk evaluation for asbestos soon. The Agency publish the final risk evaluation by Dec. 1, 2024. Part 2 will evaluate other types of asbestos fibers.

Uses of Chrysotile Asbestos

Exposure to asbestos is known to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer, and it is linked to more than 40,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Chrysotile asbestos is found in products including asbestos diaphragms, sheet gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes/linings, other vehicle friction products, and other gaskets. The use of asbestos in the United States has been declining for decades, and its use is already banned in over 50 countries. Most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued.

The chlor-alkali sector uses asbestos diaphragms to make sodium hydroxide and chlorine, a critical use of which is to disinfect drinking water and wastewater.

The eight remaining chlor-alkali facilities in the US that use asbestos must transition to either non-asbestos diaphragms or to non-asbestos membrane technology, and the final rule ensures that six of the eight will have completed this transition within five years, with the remaining two to follow. EPA says it must ensure that the eight facilities have a reasonable transition time for the phase-out of asbestos that does not inadvertently adversely impact drinking or wastewater purification efforts.

Tags: asbestos, EPA, TSCA

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