The US Finally Bans The Most Common Form Of Asbestos

In a statement released on Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it had finalized a ban on the last remaining form of asbestos – a group of cancer-causing minerals – used in the United States.

Though the use of asbestos in the US has been in decline for decades, previous attempts to ban the form known as chrysotile were met with pushback from industry. Despite being banned in more than 50 other countries, it’s used in the US in certain car parts and by the chlor-alkali industry to make caustic soda and chlorine used to disinfect water (though there are other ways to do so).

The ban requires the chlor-alkali industry to immediately cease the import of chrysotile, and for six of the eight facilities, transition away from its use within five years. This will bring the remaining asbestos-using plants up to speed with the two-thirds of other chlorine producers that don’t use asbestos in their process.

Seeking a ban on chrysotile wasn’t done with the purpose of ticking industry off. There’s a reason why it comes under the Toxic Substances Control Act – asbestos is a dangerous substance. Exposure to it is known to cause various forms of cancer, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal cancer. As a result, it’s thought to be linked to more than 40,000 deaths in the US each year.

Given its health impacts, the chrysotile ban has come as welcome news to many.

“The science is clear – asbestos is a known carcinogen that has severe impacts on public health. President Biden understands that this concern that has spanned generations and impacted the lives of countless people. That’s why EPA is so proud to finalize this long-needed ban on ongoing uses of asbestos,” said EPA administrator Michael S. Regan in a statement.

Scott Faber, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, added: “It’s been more than 50 years since EPA first sought to ban some uses of asbestos and we’re closer than ever to finishing the job.” 

“For too long, polluters have been allowed to make, use, and release toxics like asbestos and PFAS without regard for our health. Thanks to the leadership of the Biden EPA, those days are finally over.”

It’s also planned that the ban will help to advance the Cancer Moonshot, a White House initiative that aims to cut cancer death rates in half over the next 25 years.

“Cancer impacts nearly every American family, and it will take all of us to reach the President and First Lady’s ambitious but achievable goals to prevent more than four million cancer deaths by 2047 and improve the experience of people who are touched by cancer,” said Dr Danielle Carnival, deputy assistant to the President for the project. 

“Banning the use of asbestos will help prevent cancer before it begins – saving and improving American lives across the country.” 

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