If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Persistent Pollutants

EPA will pick up the pace of chemical regulations in 2024

Bans on chrysotile asbestos and a few toxic solvents are likely this year

by Britt E. Erickson
January 19, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 2


Chrysotile asbestos.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency is poised to ban the use of chrysotile asbestos this year.

This year is shaping up to be one of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s busiest for chemical regulation since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was amended in 2016.


Rules to manage the risks of toxic chemicals in the US are coming but could end up in court.

The EPA plans to issue final rules banning chrysotile asbestos and a few toxic solvents, including methylene chloride.

The agency plans to crank out dozens of overdue chemical risk assessments and a handful of risk management regulations.

The agency is about 3 years behind schedule on issuing regulations on the first 10 high-​ priority chemicals assessed under the revised TSCA. The EPA found risks to human health for all 10. But so far, it has proposed rules to manage those risks for just half of them: asbestos, carbon tetrachloride, methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene.

The EPA will likely finalize some of those rules and crank out proposals for the remaining 5 chemicals in 2024.

Asbestos will most likely be the first to be regulated this year. In early December, the EPA sent a rule banning the use of chrysotile asbestos to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. This type of review, which is the final step in the rulemaking process, is supposed to take 90 days but often takes longer.

The final rule is likely to come out this spring, but the chlor-alkali industry won’t phase out asbestos separation diaphragms for years. The three chlor-alkali companies that still use the carcinogenic substance— Olin, OxyChem, and Westlake Chemical—have all announced plans to transition away from it to membrane technology over the next several years.

“We expect this rule will be subject to litigation that could further delay or entirely prevent it from taking effect.”
Linda Reinstein, president, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Advocacy groups predict that chlor-​alkali producers will challenge the rule in court. “We expect this rule will be subject to litigation that could further delay or entirely prevent it from taking effect,” Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, says in a statement. Reinstein is pushing Congress to pass a bill this year that would ban not just chrysotile but all forms of asbestos.

As part of a court settlement, the EPA is evaluating the risks of other types of asbestos and of legacy uses, such as in construction materials found in older buildings. The agency faces a deadline of Dec. 1, 2024, to complete that review.


The EPA could issue final rules in late 2024 banning some uses of toxic solvents, including methylene chloride. Strict worker safety protections and exemptions for critical military uses are likely.

While catching up on regulating the first 10 high-priority chemicals, the agency is also evaluating the risks of the next 20, plus a few more requested by the chemical industry.

Those evaluations are all past due. Environmental groups sued the EPA in September for missing the deadlines. They claim that the agency’s failure to meet its statutory deadlines delays its ability to ban or restrict toxic chemicals and prolongs people’s exposure to them. In their lawsuit, the groups are asking the court to order the EPA to complete the evaluations “expeditiously pursuant to deadlines established by the Court.”

The EPA did roll out a draft assessment of the first of the next 20 high-priority chemicals in December. In that assessment, the agency identified risks for the flame retardant tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate. Draft assessments for the other 19 chemicals are in the works and could be released this year.

The EPA also announced in mid-​December that it will screen another 5 chemicals, including the high-volume chemicals vinyl chloride and acrylonitrile, in 2024 to determine whether they are a priority for risk evaluation.


The number of chemicals the US Environmental Protection Agency will scrutinize this year for possible addition to its growing list of high-priority substances for risk evaluation. The chemicals are acetaldehyde, acrylonitrile, benzenamine, 4,4’-methylene bis(2-chloroaniline), and vinyl chloride.

Source: US EPA.

In addition, in early December the agency used its authority under TSCA to go after a process used by Inhance Technologies to fluorinate certain plastic containers. The EPA claims that the company’s process creates toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as impurities. The agency ordered Inhance to stop producing PFAS by Feb. 28, 2024. That order could change the course of a lawsuit filed against Inhance by the EPA and two environmental groups over the firm’s failure to notify the EPA that it is producing PFAS.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.