EPA strengthens regulation of asbestos

EPA strengthens regulation of asbestos

This closes a 30-year-old loophole that allowed old asbestos uses without review from the EPA.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a broad new rule that strengthens the agency’s ability to rigorously review an expansive list of asbestos products that are no longer on the market before they could be sold again in the U.S.

The EPA says this closes a 30-year-old loophole that allowed old asbestos uses and products to come back to the market without any reviews or restrictions from EPA. 

This broad new rule will give EPA the authority to prohibit the use of certain products or put in place restrictions to protect public health. This action does not alter the prohibitions made in a 1989 partial ban.

“Prior to this new rule, EPA did not have the ability to prevent or restrict certain asbestos products from being reintroduced into the market,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a news release. “This new rule, combined with our ongoing risk evaluations, gives us unprecedented authorities to protect public health from domestic and imported asbestos products and gives us the ability to prohibit asbestos products from entering or reentering the market.”

“Today, we are following the laws Congress gave us to close the door on certain asbestos products to prevent them from returning to the marketplace without EPA’s review,” says Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, the EPA office of chemical safety and pollution prevention assistant administrator. “This historic step will add to the protections already in place to prevent the American public from experiencing the adverse health effects of asbestos.”

The new rule means products like asbestos vinyl floor tiles, insulation and other building materials, as well as some clothing and manufacturing products containing asbestos, cannot be imported, produced or sold in the U.S. before EPA reviews them and puts in place any necessary restrictions, including prohibiting such use. 

full list of products covered by the rule is available on the agency’s website. Previously banned asbestos items remain banned.

The EPA says these actions complement its ongoing risk evaluation of a handful of very limited, still ongoing uses in the U.S., which EPA is taking under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Safety Act, which amends the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 

EPA says addressing limited, ongoing uses of asbestos is one of its top priorities. 

The agency is reviewing ongoing uses of asbestos as one of the first 10 chemicals selected for risk evaluation under the amended TSCA. The evaluation of the risks associated with ongoing uses of asbestos is required under TSCA section 6. 

If EPA finds unreasonable risk, the agency will take prompt action to address those risks, which could include restricting or banning other asbestos uses in products. The risk evaluation and subsequent steps will ensure that asbestos uses in products not covered by the 1989 partial ban or today’s final rule are evaluated. 

EPA says it is committed to a transparent and open process to finalize the asbestos risk evaluation using sound science on the timetable established by Congress.

A list of items included in the EPA’s risk evaluation can be seen here.  

This final action takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The final rule and supporting documents will be published in the Federal Register and available under docket identification number (ID) EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0159 at https://www.regulations.gov.

Learn more about asbestos at http://www.epa.gov/asbestos.