In July, the EPA finalized a rule requiring reporting of asbestos use under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). This is important new development mandates companies still using asbestos in the years 2019 – 2022 to report to the EPA.
Asbestos manufacturers, importers and processors still utilizing all six types of asbestos (including as an impurity) in recent years are now required to report such use to the EPA. The effective date of the new rule is August 24, 2023 with reporting to occur during spring 2024.
Importantly, the rule specifically includes companies using asbestos as an impurity – such as asbestos contaminated talc products. Asbestos contaminated talc and vermiculite have both continued to be present in consumer products such as baby powder, makeup, and fertilizers in recent years.
This rule comes as part of a series of asbestos safety actions by the EPA since the TSCA was amended in 2016 to strengthen EPA’s ability to identify and regulate toxins. Still awaiting final rule status – a chrysotile asbestos ban proposed by the EPA in 2019.
The asbestos use data from this final rule will be important in forming other regulations – including a potential asbestos ban. The United States remains one of the only western nations not to have banned asbestos.
The EPA first attempted a ban in 1989 – only to be overturned by a 1991 federal court decision which stymied the agency’s ability to identify and regulate toxins. After Congress addressed those shortcomings in a 2016 TSCA amendment, the EPA again identified 10 chemicals, including asbsestos, for risk evaluation under the updated statute. The final asbestos reporting rule is part of part 1 of the EPA’s asbestos risk evaluation.
Continued action by the EPA is needed. There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. Contemporary use of asbestos in the chlor-alkali industry, as well as an impurity in consumer products, unfortunately continues to create a health risk. Mesothelioma and lung cancer will continue to develop from exposures in the 21st century until all uses of asbestos are finally banned.