The use of asbestos-containing products that are discontinued in the US, such as building materials reinforced with the mineral, will be more difficult under a new Environmental Protection Agency rule.
The action, announced April 17, does not affect ongoing uses of the carcinogenic material, including asbestos diaphragms installed and periodically replaced in some US chlor-alkali manufacturing plants. The rule also falls far short of health and environmental activists’ call for the EPA to ban all asbestos products.
Instead, the new rule requires any company that wants to reintroduce a discontinued asbestos product to the US market to notify the EPA. The agency will then evaluate the planned uses of the product to determine whether they are safe for human health and the environment. As needed, the EPA will prohibit the products or place restrictions on them before approving their use.
The rule will “close the door on certain asbestos products to prevent them from returning to the marketplace without EPA’s review,” says Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, head of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
But Linda Reinstein of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization calls the rule “toothless” because it leaves the door open for companies to resurrect obsolete uses of asbestos in the US.