The US Environmental Protection Agency wants to know how much asbestos, including asbestos in mixtures and products, was imported or processed in the US over the last 4 years. It also wants information on how asbestos was used and on worker exposure.
Asbestos manufacturers, processors, and importers would need to report such information under a proposed rule the EPA announced May 5.
“Strong data and the best available science are the foundation of our work to protect communities from hazardous chemicals like asbestos,” Michal Freedhoff, head of the EPA’s chemical safety office, says in a statement. “Getting a more comprehensive and complete set of data on how and where this chemical is used is part of EPA’s broader effort to evaluate the health risks from asbestos and, when needed, put protections in place.”
The EPA committed to collecting the data as part of a legal settlement with the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and other public health and environmental groups.
“The lack of reporting obligations by the asbestos industry has been a gaping hole in EPA’s efforts to protect Americans from exposure to this lethal carcinogen,” Linda Reinstein, president and cofounder of ADAO, says in a statement.
In 2018, the groups petitioned the EPA to require reporting of asbestos imports and use under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The agency denied that petition. In 2019, the petitioners sued the EPA for failure to collect reasonably available information that would inform its asbestos risk evaluation. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the EPA to require asbestos data reporting.
Asbestos is one of the first 10 chemicals the EPA is reviewing for risks to human health and the environment under the 2016 revisions to TSCA. It is imported into the US as chrysotile fibers, used exclusively by the chlor-alkali industry in semipermeable diaphragms.
In April, the EPA proposed to ban US imports of asbestos. The agency identified risks to workers in the chlor-alkali industry in a final human health risk assessment in December 2020.
Chlorine makers pushed back, arguing that a ban would have negative effects on the chemical and water disinfection supply chains. The American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, claimed in an April statement that the EPA overestimated worker risk in its assessment because it ignored federal worker protection requirements.