EPA Bans Chrysotile Asbestos

Chrysotile asbestos fibers close-up on the hand of a man in gloves

On Monday March 18, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a comprehensive ban on asbestos, a carcinogenic mineral that’s remained in use in a variety of products.

The EPA’s Final Rule is an historic one, and expands a sweeping 2016 measure that overhauled the agency’s regulation of tens of thousands of toxic chemicals.

As one of the nation’s leading asbestos litigation firms, SWMW Law applauds the EPA’s latest effort to finally end the use of asbestos in the U.S. Having fought for countless victims and families diagnosed with devastating diseases caused by asbestos exposure, we know that this ban – though long overdue – will save lives.

However, we also know that asbestos exposure remains an ongoing risk for workers in many at-risk occupations, and that our work helping victims will continue as more victims are diagnosed due to exposure that occurred years or decades ago.

Wasn’t Asbestos Already Banned?

Today, most people are aware that asbestos – a naturally occurring mineral that was used abundantly in all types of building materials and consumer products during much of the 20th century – is a known carcinogen that’s been linked to mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other deadly illnesses. Many also know that it fell out of favor after a series of regulations were passed in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, few realize that until the EPA’s latest landmark rule, asbestos was not – nor had it ever ben – permanently banned in the U.S. In fact, asbestos remained legal and in use even after its highly publicized regulatory crackdown decades ago.

For example, according to data from the U.S. Geologic Survey, over 750 metric tons of asbestos was used nationwide in 2018. And though that pales in comparison to the 650,000 metric tons around the time of asbestos’ peak use in 1963, it is still a significant amount.

  • Most legally permitted asbestos has been used by the chemical manufacturing industry, primarily in the production of chlorine and caustic soda.
  • Asbestos has also been legally permitted for use in oil-field brake locks, aftermarket brake linings and brake pads for commercial vehicles, and sheet gaskets.

While over 50 countries have passed laws banning the use of all asbestos, the U.S. struggled for decades to ban asbestos outright.

Some notable setbacks include a devastating ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991 that overturned key provisions of the EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act that would have permanently banned asbestos, as well as nearly a decade of stalled progress following the 2016 passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was intended to modernize the Toxic Substance Control Act by requiring the EPA to conduct safety reviews for the highest priority hazardous chemicals, of which asbestos was one.

Fortunately, however, the EPA was able to overcome these setbacks and issue its ban on asbestos. Notably, the ban is the first rule to be finalized under the new Toxic Substance Control Act process created in 2016 and is likely to usher in other final rules that provide important protections against hazardous chemicals.

EPA Asbestos Ban: An Historic Step Forward

After more than three decades of legislative shortfalls and a regulatory ecosystem that allowed companies to continually produce harmful asbestos-containing products, the EPA’s 2024 ban on asbestos is truly an historic move. As EPA Administrator Michael Regan noted:

“With today’s ban, EPA is finally slamming the door on a chemical so dangerous that it has been banned in over 50 countries. This historic ban is more than 30 years in the making, and it’s thanks to amendments that Congress made in 2016 to fix the Toxic Substances Control Act.’'

According to the EPA’s news release, the ban will prohibit all ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos.

While there are other known types of asbestos, chrysotile is the only form known to be imported, processed, or distributed for use in the U.S. – with it being imported into the country as recently as 2022 for use by the chlor-alkali industry. It’s also been used in products such as asbestos diaphragms, sheet gaskets, brake blocks, automotive brakes and linings, and other vehicle friction products.

The EPA has set compliance deadlines to transition away from each use of chrysotile asbestos, which are as soon as is practicable for each use while also providing a reasonable transition period, which the law requires. For example, the Final Rule:

  • Bans the import of asbestos for chlor-alkali use immediately and requires the eight chlor-alkali plants in the U.S. that still use asbestos diaphragms (often for water treatment purposes) to transition to non-asbestos diaphragms within 5 years, or within 8, 12, or 15 years depending on how many facilities an operation has.
  • Bans most asbestos-containing sheet gaskets two years after the Final Rule’s effective date, with a five-yar phase out for sheet gaskets used to produce titanium dioxide or process nuclear material.
  • Bans asbestos-containing oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products, and other gaskets six months after the Final Rule’s effective date.

Read more about the EPA asbestos ban from The Washington Post and Associated Press.

The Fight for Asbestos Victims Continues

While our team at SWMW Law applauds the EPA and all those who helped bring about this important Final Rule, we remain committed to fighting for victims of asbestos exposure nationwide.

Despite the much-needed ban, asbestos continues to kills over 40,000 Americans each year – most of whom were exposed to asbestos on the jobs or through secondary exposure years and decades ago. Asbestos exposure also remains a concern for many workers today, including those in construction and other fields and specialized trades that encounter legacy asbestos found in older homes, buildings, and various aging products.

If you or someone you love were diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another disease because of your exposure to asbestos, we’re readily available to help. Our award-winning team has been a leader in litigating asbestos claims for victims nationwide and has recovered over $750 million in compensation for clients.

You can learn more about your rights and legal options during a FREE consultation. Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online.