EPA plans new safety regulations for asbestos, phthalates in 2023

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to introduce new safety regulations on chrysotile asbestos and other toxic chemicals this year, as part of an updated agenda outlining actions regulators will focus on over the next 12 months.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires the agency to issue a comprehensive agenda twice a year to explain upcoming or recently completed regulatory actions.

On Jan. 4, EPA released its unified agenda for fall 2022, outlining safety rules, regulatory actions, and two chemical-specific rulebooks to be addressed this year.

New asbestos restrictions

In 2021, the EPA released a final risk assessment for chrysotile asbestos, indicating its use posed an unacceptable risk to consumers, workers, and bystanders. The EPA then proposed a rule on April 12, 2022 to address the unreasonable risk of adverse health effects associated with chrysotile asbestos.

The new unified agenda proposes new restrictions on chrysotile asbestos that will ban the manufacture, import, processing, distribution and commercial use of chrysotile asbestos for diaphragms used in the chlor-alkali industry.

The ban covers the use of chrysotile asbestos in a range of products including chrysotile-asbestos containing sealing sheets used in chemical manufacturing, chrysotile-asbestos containing brake pads used in the oil industry, chrysotile-asbestos containing aftermarket brakes/liners, chrysotile-asbestos containing friction products for vehicles and other gaskets containing chrysotile asbestos.

The proposed rule would also ban the manufacture, import, processing and distribution of chrysotile asbestos-containing automotive aftermarket brakes/pads and other chrysotile asbestos-containing gaskets for consumer use.

The EPA plans to review public comments and issue a final rule in October 2023.

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The new agenda also calls for regulations on disposal and record-keeping requirements for the manufacture of chrysotile-asbestos-containing products under the TSCA.

The rulemaking would require manufacturers of asbestos-containing products to report exposure-related information, amounts of asbestos, and articles containing asbestos to the EPA, which would use the information to set future regulations on asbestos, and plans to issue a final rule in May 2023.

Health risks from asbestos

The risks of asbestos exposure are well documented and most modern first world countries banned the use of asbestos outright decades ago. But not the United States.

The EPA’s determination of asbestos risks follows a decade-long mesothelioma litigation, often cited as the longest-running mass crime in United States history.

Asbestos lawsuits were filed by more than 600,000 people against approximately 6,000 defendants, all of whom made similar claims that manufacturers and sellers of asbestos-containing products knew about the risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related injuries, but failed to provide adequate warnings.

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