EPA Announces Final Rule Banning Use of Asbestos

In a continued effort to improving public health protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a final rule to prohibit ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos, the only form of asbestos currently utilized in or imported to the United States. This landmark decision, unveiled on March 18, 2024, marks the first rule to be set under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), receiving overwhelming support in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

The ban on ongoing uses of asbestos is a significant stride forward in chemical safety regulation.  Exposure to asbestos is known to cause an excess of diseases including lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer, contributing to over 40,000 deaths annually in the United States alone.

The ban targets chrysotile asbestos, which is commonly found in various products including asbestos diaphragms, sheet gaskets, brake blocks, and vehicle friction products. Despite the declining use of asbestos in the United States over the years, it is important to address its continued presence and mitigate associated health risks. The ban follows in the footsteps of over 50 countries worldwide that have already implemented prohibitions on asbestos.

The EPA’s ruling includes compliance deadlines aimed at transitioning away from each use of chrysotile asbestos, ensuring a reasonable but expedient process. Particularly, the chlor-alkali sector, which utilizes asbestos diaphragms in the production of essential chemicals like sodium hydroxide and chlorine, will undergo a significant transition. While the ban on asbestos import for chlor-alkali use is immediate, facilities will have a grace period to transition to non-asbestos alternatives, with oversight from the EPA.

Furthermore, the final rule addresses various other uses of asbestos, instituting bans and phase-outs for products such as sheet gaskets and oilfield brake blocks. EPA Administrator Regan emphasized the agency’s commitment to workplace safety measures and proper disposal practices, ensuring that asbestos-related risks are effectively managed throughout the transition period.

Looking ahead, the EPA remains dedicated to evaluating and addressing the risks associated with other types of asbestos fibers, stressing the agency’s ongoing commitment to comprehensive chemical safety regulation.

IFO Group understands that each organization’s compliance journey is unique. If you will be impacted by this ban and are looking for a third-party to help you navigate these new requirements, consider IFO Group as your reliable partner.  Contact us at info@ifogroup.com or at 832-403-2135 today to request a free consultation.