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The United States Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new rule that would require much stricter reporting and record keeping for all uses of asbestos throughout the past four years.
The rule would require companies that manufacture or process asbestos-containing products to report all types of use, quantities of use and exposure-related information, much of which is not currently required.
It also includes articles containing unintended impurities, such as talc products contaminated with asbestos fibers.
According to the EPA, the data obtained will be used to more accurately guide the agency in future actions. It also will be used in Part II of the ongoing Asbestos Risk Evaluation looking at legacy asbestos and the growing issue of contaminated talc, particularly in cosmetics.
“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,” said Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a press release announcing the proposal.
Banning Chrysotile Asbestos
In April, the EPA proposed a new rule that would ban the ongoing use of all chrysotile asbestosthe only known form of raw asbestos currently being imported into the US This proposal stemmed from the earlier Part 1 of the Risk Evaluation.
The chloralkali industry is the only known user of imported raw chrysotile asbestos, but this form of asbestos is still prevalent in products such as automotive brakes and linings, sheet gaskets, diaphragms, oil-field brake blocks and several other vehicle frictions products.
These proposals were the first ever risk-management rules issued under the new process for evaluating the safety of existing chemicals for the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was amended in 2016.
Both proposals are currently undergoing public comments. The EPA will review the comments and incorporate any changes necessary before publishing the final rules in the Federal Register.
An EPA spokesperson told The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com this latest data collection rule will be finalized by December 2022. The Risk Management Rule leading to the ban of chrysotile asbestos should be finalized by December 2023.
EPA Stepping Up Asbestos Action
The rules stem from the EPA’s growing interest in asbestos and its risks to public health, much of it prompted from legal prodding by advocacy groups.
The inhalation or ingestion of microscopic asbestos fibers can cause a variety of serious diseases, including malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Although asbestos has been heavily regulated in the US for decades, the push for a total ban and more comprehensive reporting has intensified in recent years.
“Strong data and the best available science are the foundation of our work to protect communities from hazardous chemicals like asbestos,” Freedhoff said.
Asbestos Regulation Will Intensify for Many
This latest proposal summarized the required reporting as “asbestos in bulk form, in an article, or as an impurity, or as a component of a fixture.”
From the North American Industry Classification System, the EPA also identified nine industries expected to be most affected by the new rule. They are:
- Oil and Gas Extraction
- Chemical Manufacturing
- Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing
- Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
- Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
- Gasoline Stations
- Repair and Maintenance groups
- Miscellaneous Manufacturing
In addition to identifying the asbestos being used, companies will also be required to file information regarding the manner or method of disposal, along with environmental and health effects of the substance or mixture.
They will be asked the number of individuals exposed, along with estimates of who also will be exposed to the product in the future, along with the duration of exposure.
These latest proposals come in the wake the EPA’s ongoing Risk Evaluation. Part I of the Asbestos Risk Evaluation, which was released in December of 2020, focused mostly on chrysotile asbestos and current uses, determining unreasonable risk of injury to health.
Part 2 of the Risk Evaluation, which expands the focus considerably, will be released in 2024 and will rely heavily on the more comprehensive data being required.
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