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The EPA proposal would ban asbestos in bleach and brake pads

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

The proposal represents a significant expansion of EPA regulations under a landmark 2016 law that overhauled regulations for tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

The proposed rule would ban chrysotile asbestos, the only current use of asbestos in the United States. The substance is found in products like brake pads and gaskets, and is used to make chlorine 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 bringing an end to the use of hazardous asbestos in the United States.”

The proposed ban “represents significant progress in our work to implement the 2016 law and take bold, long-overdue action to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Regan said.

The 2016 law approved new regulations for tens of thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products, including substances like asbestos and trichlorethylene, which have been known for decades to cause cancer but were largely unregulated under federal law. Known as the Frank Lautenberg Chemicals Safety Act, the legislation was intended to clean up a hodgepodge of state chemical regulations and update the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 1976 law that had remained unchanged for 40 years.

Asbestos is removed.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan called the rule an important step in protecting public health and “finally bringing an end to the use of hazardous asbestos in the United States.”
AP

The EPA banned asbestos in 1989, but the rule was largely overturned by a 1991 court decision 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 establish safeguards against unacceptable risks.

At the signing ceremony for the new law, then-President Barack Obama said the US chemicals system under TSCA was “so complex, so burdensome, that our country was not even able to enforce an asbestos ban. I think many Americans would be shocked by all of this.”

Asbestos, once common in home insulation and other products, is banned in more than 50 countries, and its use in the US 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 from Brazil and used by the chlor-alkali industry, which produces bleach, caustic soda, and others manufactures 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 US that still use asbestos diaphragms to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide. The plants are mainly located in Louisiana and Texas.

The use of asbestos diaphragms has been on the decline and now accounts for about a third of chlor-alkali production in the US, the EPA said.

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

The proposed rule aims not only to address the significant human health impacts of exposure to chrysotile asbestos, but also to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with chlor-alkali production, an energy-intensive industrial operation.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/05/epa-proposal-would-ban-asbestos-in-bleach-brake-pads/ The EPA proposal would ban asbestos in bleach and brake pads

DUSTIN JONES

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