Many people mistakenly believe that asbestos is banned in the United States, as it is in many other countries and are shocked when they learn that this isn’t entirely true. Even some who know asbestos is not fully banned are surprised that there seems to be little movement toward a full ban of this toxic substance.
In mid-June, a U.S. senator released comments criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its inaction regarding asbestos. His comments were released on the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This law sets clear deadlines for the EPA to evaluate chemicals in use throughout the country and complete risk-based assessments.
The report pointed out that although the Lautenberg Act required it, the EPA failed to review asbestos. According to media reports, he also criticized the EPA for failing to ban asbestos when it had the chance since the Lautenberg Act gave it the power to do so.
What makes asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos refers to a group of natural minerals composed of long, thin crystals. Because it is heat resistant, fire resistant and insulative, it has been considered a useful ingredient in numerous products, especially building materials.
However, when asbestos particles are inhaled or ingested, they can cause serious illnesses to develop. These illnesses can include asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Some uses of asbestos are banned
Because of the health risks associated with its use, a partial ban was placed on asbestos in 1989. This prohibited the manufacture, import, processing and distribution of five asbestos-containing products.
The April 2019 Final Rule prohibits several asbestos-containing products that are no longer on the market from making a resurgence. Some other asbestos-containing products are banned under the Clean Air Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Food and Drug Administration.
However, several asbestos-containing products are still in use, and it is unclear if or when a full ban will be enacted in the U.S.
Because people can encounter asbestos in new or old products, it can be especially important to take the proper precautions to avoid any potential exposure. In some cases, this can include leaving an asbestos product undisturbed or hiring an asbestos professional to remove it. In occupations that involve asbestos products, the proper precautions can mean the implementation of an approved safety protocol and the use of the proper personal protective equipment.