For the first time in decades, U.S. EPA is moving to control the carcinogenic mineral asbestos, the agency announced June 2. EPA’s plan would give a pass, at least for now, to industries that currently use the mineral, including the nation’s biggest users of asbestos, manufacturers of chloralkali chemicals.
The agency’s plan would require notification from companies that intend to use asbestos in adhesives, roof coatings, missile liners, fuel cells and batteries, and other applications that were once common in the U.S. but have been mostly phased out.
The notification requirement would also apply to companies putting asbestos to novel uses. That would trigger a 90-day EPA evaluation of the intended new use. During that time, the agency could impose restrictions, such as disposal requirements, on the new use or ban it. Separately, EPA is evaluating risks of current U.S. uses of asbestos to determine whether to restrict or ban them or allow them to continue. This includes asbestos diaphragms deployed in much of the nation’s chloralkali production.