After mounting criticism regarding its asbestos policy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tightened the rules on the importation and use of products containing asbestos in the United States.
The new rule stops just short of a complete ban on all asbestos products and is the most restrictive in the EPA’s history. It closes a loophole that had been widely considered dangerous and irresponsible. Under the agency’s Significant New Use Rule, which was proposed last year, the prohibitions on asbestos were very narrowly defined, and it would have been fairly easy for manufacturers and importers to find ways to obtain an EPA permit for their products.
The EPA maintained that it didn’t have the authority to flat-out ban all asbestos products, claiming that the Significant New Use Rule was the best that the agency could do. However, the agency reconsidered after obtaining significant feedback from activists, industry groups like the American Chemistry Council and even retired EPA officials.
The new restrictions on asbestos will force companies to get the EPA’s approval before importing items containing asbestos for commercial sale or manufacturing processes. A total of 19 products that contain asbestos, including sealants, roofing felt, adhesives, pipeline wraps, millboard, reinforced plastics and floor tiles will be specifically restricted without going through an EPA risk assessment. In addition, a “catch-all” category of items was established to require the review of any other products with asbestos that aren’t already specifically addressed in the law.
Even so, not everyone is happy with the EPA’s actions. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization called the new rules “deeply disappointing” and has asked Congress to enact a complete ban of asbestos products.
Diseases caused by asbestos exposure are related to at least 3,000 deaths per year. Even minimal exposure to asbestos can lead to disease years down the line. If you believe that asbestos is linked to your illness, it’s important to find out more about your rights and the legal resources available to you.