EPA rule would finally ban asbestos, a carcinogen still in use | Health, Medicine and Fitness
By MATTHEW DALY – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed a rule to finally ban asbestos, a carcinogen that is still used in some chlorine bleaches, brake pads and other products and is killing thousands of Americans. every 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.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan called the rule an important step in protecting public health and “finally ending the use of hazardous asbestos in the United States.”
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.
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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.
The EPA banned asbestos in 1989, but the rule was largely overturned by a 1991 court ruling that weakened the EPA’s authority under TSCA to address human health risks from asbestos or other existing chemicals. The 2016 law required the EPA to evaluate chemicals and put in place safeguards against unreasonable risks.
At the signing ceremony for the new law, then-President Barack Obama said the U.S. chemical system under TSCA was “so complex, so cumbersome that our country hasn’t even been able to maintain a ban on asbestos.I think a lot of Americans would be shocked by all of this.
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 known to be currently imported, processed, or distributed for use in the United States is chrysotile asbestos, which is imported primarily from Brazil and Russia. It is used by the chlor-alkali industry, which produces bleach, caustic soda 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 American Chemistry Council, a lobby group for the chemical industry, criticized the EPA’s proposal, saying it could cause significant damage to the United States’ drinking water supply by reducing the supply household chlorine.
About 98% of public drinking water treatment facilities use some form of chlorine-based sanitizer, the group said, adding that supply chain disruptions experienced by water utilities over the past two years “have highlighted the vital importance of chlorine for water disinfection”. ‘
Chlorine is also used in the production of batteries, wind turbines and solar panels, the group said.
The proposed ban would take effect two years after the effective date of the final rule.
In addition to addressing the significant human health effects of exposure to chrysotile asbestos, the proposed rule is also expected to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of chlor-alkali, a energy-intensive industrial operation.
Linda Reinstein, co-founder and president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, called the EPA rule a “historic step forward” but said “more work needs to be done to prevent exposure to ‘Asbestos and Protecting Americans’. Reinstein, whose husband, Alan, died of mesothelioma, called on Congress to approve a bill bearing her husband’s name that bans asbestos outright.
“We still need Congress to step in to protect all the Alans out there,” she said in an interview.
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