With the release of the Asbestos Risk Evaluation Part 2, new regulations and policies have been put in place by the EPA to prevent potentially harmful asbestos exposure. While the new regulations won’t be finalized until 2024, many companies are taking steps toward compliance before then.
New regulations include types of asbestos that can be imported, types of asbestos that can be used & reused, and further regulations on the commercial use of asbestos.
The EPA has announced that it plans to ban imports on ALL types of asbestos. This is a big announcement, as the original plan was to still allow small shipments of chrysotile asbestos for specific industries. A ban on all asbestos would stop new shipments from coming into the United States which will, over time, lower the amount of asbestos recycling. This ban will exclude “New Uses” approved by USEPA in 2018 for use in chloro-alkali diaphrams and potentially other approved uses.
Repurposing asbestos (recycling asbestos) has been one of the most difficult areas for the EPA to regulate. Banning asbestos imports will stop the total amount of asbestos in the US from growing every year, eventually thinning it out enough to manage. However, EPA will not ban stockpiled asbestos products that building owners have already purchased, thereby requiring the inspection of buildings to be renovated or demolished long after the ban takes place.
Recycled asbestos has been the primary method for ‘new’ materials with asbestos to be circulated in the United States. Part 2 of the Asbestos Risk Evaluation also mentions specific manufacturing industries that must remove all asbestos-containing materials (ACM) from production lines within 2 years of the proposed 2024 finalization.
Asbestos has been found in many commercial products over the years, including everyday household items. While asbestos was not an ingredient in these products, it was still found in them from machinery that contained asbestos. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and extremely hard to completely contain in a manufacturing setting.
Further Asbestos Commercial Restrictions
In April 2022, EPA issued a proposed risk management rule under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), to address the unreasonable risks to human health the Agency identified for chrysotile asbestos in its December 2020 TSCA Risk Evaluation for Asbestos, Part 1: Chrysotile Asbestos.
The proposed rule would prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce, and commercial use of chrysotile asbestos for six categories of chrysotile asbestos-containing products: asbestos diaphragms, sheet gaskets, oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products, and other gaskets. The proposed prohibition on the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce would address consumer exposure to chrysotile asbestos. The prohibitions relating to asbestos diaphragms and sheet gaskets for commercial use are proposed to take effect two years after the effective date of the final rule; the proposed prohibitions relating to oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products, and other gaskets for commercial use are proposed to take effect 180 days after the effective date of the final rule.
Since the primary source of current asbestos products that is imported to the United States is aftermarket automotive products, the risks to auto mechanics remains a significant concern. NIOSH has published a checklist for these operations following the OSHA General Industry standard to assist in the replacement of these products, and the list is found here:
In addition, the products found to contain asbestos lead to a proposal to ban ALL asbestos in machinery related to commercial products. The EPA has also proposed stricter reporting requirements for removing manufacturing equipment with ACM. After any equipment with ACM has been removed, testing & reporting will still be required by the EPA for a yet-to-be-determined period of time.
The EPA basically intends any future use of asbestos to be used solely for specific industrial uses and to be closely monitored.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos information, remediation, or removal check the resources below: