EPA rule would finally ban asbestos, a carcinogen still in use

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule to finally ban asbestos, a carcinogen still used in some chlorine bleaches, brake pads and other products that kills thousands of Americans every year.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed a rule to finally ban asbestos, a carcinogen that’s still used in some chlorine bleaches, brake pads and other products and kills thousands of Americans each year. .

The proposal marks a major expansion of EPA regulations under a landmark 2016 law that revised rules governing tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and to furniture.

The proposed rule would ban chrysotile asbestos, the only continuing use of asbestos in the United States. The substance is found in products such as brake linings and seals, and is used to make bleach and sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda.

The proposed ban “demonstrates significant progress in our work to implement the Act (2016) and take bold, long-overdue steps to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Regan said.

The 2016 law authorized new rules for tens of thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products, including substances such as asbestos and trichloroethylene which for decades have been known to cause the cancer, but were largely unregulated by federal law. Known as the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, the law sought to clarify a hodgepodge of state rules governing chemicals and update the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 1976 law that had remained unchanged for 40 years.

Asbestos, which was once common in home insulation and other products, is banned in more than 50 countries and its use in the United States has been in decline for decades. The only form of asbestos currently imported, processed, or distributed in the United States is chrysotile asbestos, which is imported from Brazil and used by the chlor-alkali industry, which produces bleach, soda caustic and other products.

Most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued.

While chlorine is a commonly used disinfectant in water treatment, there are only 10 chlor-alkali plants in the United States that still use asbestos diaphragms to produce chlorine and hydroxide. sodium. The factories are mainly located in Louisiana and Texas.

The use of asbestos diaphragms has declined and now accounts for about one-third of chlor-alkali production in the United States, the EPA said.

The proposed ban would take effect two years after the effective date of the final rule.

ABC News

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