EPA to ban last form of asbestos used in US

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 10:47 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday finalized a rule that would ban using and importing cancer-causing asbestos, a material still used in some vehicles and in some industrial facilities in the U.S., the first chemical banned under a 2016 chemical safety law.

The ban of chrysotile asbestos, the only form of asbestos currently used in or imported to the United States, comes after the EPA under the previous Trump administration delayed banning the substance.

“The science is clear – asbestos is a known carcinogen that has severe impacts on public health,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “That’s why EPA is so proud to finalize this long needed ban on ongoing uses of asbestos.”

The substance had already been banned in more than 50 countries around the world and its use in the U.S. had been in decline, with most consumer industries discontinuing its use.

Raw chrysotile asbestos was imported into the U.S. as recently as 2022 for use by the chlor-alkali industry, which makes asbestos diaphragms to make sodium hydroxide and chlorine, used to disinfect drinking water and wastewater. Eight such plants remain in the U.S.

It is also used to make aftermarket automotive brakes and linings and other vehicle friction products, as well as sheet gaskets.

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to cases of lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and laryngeal cancer. The EPA said the announcement is part of President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, a strategy to end cancer.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Josie Kao)