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What’s Included in the EPA’s New Asbestos Use Rule?

Updated: Jan 4, 2019

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with a proposed rule critics fear will expand the commercial use of asbestos — a toxic mineral known to cause mesothelioma and other diseases.

The EPA received nearly 6,000 comments about its significant new use rule (SNUR) as of Aug. 10, the last day for public commenting.

In June, the agency proposed SNUR under the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). It would allow companies to manufacture, import and process more than a dozen asbestos-containing products no longer in use as long as the EPA approves them first.

The EPA’s summary of SNUR reads: “The Agency has found no information indicating that the following uses are ongoing, and therefore, the following uses are subject to this proposed SNUR: Adhesives, sealants, and roof and non-roof coatings; arc chutes; beater-add gaskets; extruded sealant tape and other tape; filler for acetylene cylinders; high-grade electrical paper; millboard; missile liner; pipeline wrap; reinforced plastics; roofing felt; separators in fuel cells and batteries; vinyl-asbestos floor tile; and any other building material [other than cement].”

Asbestos is banned in more than 60 countries worldwide, including the U.K., Australia and every member of the European Union.

But asbestos is merely regulated in the U.S., where it is still used in variety of products such as brake pads, automobile clutches, certain roofing materials and corrugated sheeting. The majority of raw chrysotile asbestos imported to the U.S. is used by chlorine manufacturers.

In December 2016, the EPA included asbestos on its top-10 priority list of dangerous chemicals subject to risk evaluations by the agency under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which reformed the longstanding TSCA.

However, with the introduction of SNUR, anti-asbestos advocates say the rule could open the door to new or revitalized asbestos uses and ignore “legacy uses” such as asbestos in homes, schools and landfills across the nation.

“Asbestos is a carcinogen regardless of whether it’s in building material that was installed 40 years ago or whether it’s in a newly manufactured product,” Melanie Bush, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, told ABC News. “Cancer doesn’t distinguish between these two uses so when [the] EPA is evaluating asbestos we think they should take a comprehensive look.”

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