The risks of asbestos exposure are well known. As such, it may be surprising that it is not completely banned in the United States. However, a proposed regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could significantly restrict it.
What is the EPA proposing?
The EPA is reportedly moving to completely prohibit the use, manufacture and importing of one of the most common types of asbestos: chrysotile asbestos. The U.S. imported about 300 metric tons of chrysotile asbestos in 2020 alone.
The proposed restrictions would also require parties to notify the EPA before importing any products containing other types of asbestos.
What a ban could mean for workers
Banning chrysotile asbestos could protect workers, particularly those with a disproportionate level of exposure. This includes people in industries like:
- Automotive repair and manufacturing
- Military branches
- Trades like electricians and plumbers
That said, the ban would not immediately stop all asbestos use or eliminate the toxic fiber. In some cases, the EPA would not impose the restrictions for years.
Further, while the ban could prevent future exposure, countless products already contain asbestos. This so-called legacy asbestos is already in construction materials, toys and automotive parts people use every day.
Why have previous ban efforts been unsuccessful?
Despite all the people that could benefit from an asbestos ban, such efforts have failed many times before. And while measures prohibit asbestos mining and production, the fact is that it still comes into the country every day.
However, critics of restrictions have made enormous efforts to keep measures like this ban from moving forward. Some parties argue that they can safely use asbestos; others say the known carcinogen is not a legitimate health risk.
The tides could be turning, though. Recently, the Senate was unanimous in acknowledging an annual National Asbestos Awareness Week. The resolution urges better education and warnings regarding asbestos.
We will certainly follow any developments in this proposal as it moves forward.