EPA finalizes asbestos ban under Toxic Substance Control Act

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a final ban on chrysotile asbestos, the last remaining type of asbestos currently used in or imported to the U.S. The asbestos ban is part of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) and comes after more than 30 years of lobbying against the material.

Chrysotile asbestos is linked to more than 40,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. It’s known to cause a variety of public health problems, including lung cancer, stomach cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer.

The material, otherwise known as “white asbestos,” is the major commercial form of asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos has historically been used in flooring, roofing, ceilings, walls, and motor vehicles. Most buildings in the U.S. constructed between 1900 and 1990 used the material because of its fire retardant properties.

Leading healthcare experts note that asbestos-based felt and paper puts construction workers at risk because it releases toxic fibers into the air when it’s tampered with. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that over 125 million people are exposed to chrysotile asbestos, either at home, school, or in the workplace. Over 50 countries have already banned it.

The first attempt at banning asbestos in the U.S. came in 1989. That year, the EPA proposed banning chrysotile asbestos; a measure that was struck down in a 1991 court decision under the Bush administration.

Then in 1998, WHO began issuing reports warning the public about chrysotile asbestos. Countries around the world acted swiftly and began phasing out the product, but the U.S. lagged behind. Lobbyists in the construction industry fought hard to stymie the product ban for decades, namely the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.

A breakthrough came in 2016 under TCSA which marked the first partial ban against asbestos in the U.S. TCSA’s final asbestos ban is part of a White House program called the Cancer Moonshot, a federal campaign that seeks to eliminate cancer-related deaths.

“The science is clear—asbestos is a known carcinogen that has severe impacts on public health,” said the EPA’s Michael S. Regan. “President Biden understands that this concern that has spanned generations and impacted the lives of countless people. That’s why EPA is so proud to finalize this long-needed ban on ongoing uses of asbestos. Under the President’s leadership, EPA has been working expeditiously to put the nation’s chemical safety program back on track and finally realize the protections of the 2016 law. This action is just the beginning as we work to protect all American families, workers, and communities from toxic chemicals.”

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