US bans asbestos, a deadly carcinogen found in everyday products used by millions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this Monday the total ban on asbestos in the United States, a carcinogenic mineral that is still used in chlorine bleaching products, car brake pads and others, and that kills thousands of Americans each year. .

The EPA’s move marks a wholesale expansion of its 2016 regulation, when a landmark law changed rules governing tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to those used to make clothing and furniture.

Specifically, the regulations prohibit asbestos known as chrysotile, the only one currently used in the United States. This mineral is found in products used to make chlorine bleach and sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan called the move an important step to protect public health.

“With today’s ban, the EPA finally slams the door on a chemical so dangerous that it has been banned in more than 50 countries”Regan stated.

“This historic ban has been more than 30 years in the making, and is made possible by amendments Congress made in 2016 to fix the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the main US law governing the use of chemicals, he added.

Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other types of cancer, and is linked to more than 40,000 deaths each year in the United States.

According to Regan, ending the use of asbestos contributes to the goals of President Joe Biden’s ‘Cancer Moonshot’ initiative, which seeks to end the disease in the United States.

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“The science is clear: asbestos is a known carcinogen that has serious public health implications. “This action is just the beginning of our work to protect all American families, workers and communities from toxic chemicals,” Regan said.

The 2016 law authorized new standards for tens of thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products, including substances like asbestos and trichlorethylene that have been known to cause cancer for decades but were largely unregulated. by federal law.

Known as the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, this regulation was intended to clarify a host of state regulations governing chemicals and update the Toxic Substances Control Act, established in 1976 that had remained unchanged for 40 years.

The EPA banned asbestos in 1989, but the rule was largely overturned two years later in a court decision that weakened the EPA’s authority under TSCA to address human health risks from asbestos or other existing chemicals. . The 2016 law required the EPA evaluate chemicals and establish protections against unreasonable risks.

Asbestos, once common in home insulation and other products, is banned in more than 50 countries and its use in the U.S. has been declining for decades. The only form of asbestos currently imported, processed or distributed in the country is chrysotile, which comes mainly from Brazil and Russia. It is used in the chlor-alkali industry, which produces bleach and other products.

Most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued.

Although chlorine is a commonly used disinfectant in water treatment, There are only 10 chlor-alkali plants in the US. that still use asbestos diaphragms to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide. Most of these plants are found in Louisiana and Texas.