Biden administration bans ongoing uses of asbestos

(The Hill) - The Biden administration will ban or phase out ongoing uses of asbestos, the agency said Monday. 

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule that set deadlines for industry to transition away from using the substance, which causes lung cancer.

Historically, asbestos was used in roofing and cement — and may still be found in old buildings. 

Once its health effects became known, the use of asbestos declined, but it is still used to disinfect drinking water and wastewater as well as in vehicle brakes, mechanical seals, and oil and gas drilling.

These industries, however, will have to transition away from the substance — though an EPA press release said they will have a “a reasonable transition period” as required by law. 

 The ban applies to chrysotile asbestos, which is the only known type of asbestos used in the U.S.

“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 Regan said in a written statement. 

The rule stands in contrast to action taken under the Trump administration — it sought to require companies to notify the EPA if they planned to manufacture or import asbestos — which could trigger a safety review at the agency. Critics complained that the prior administration stopped short of outright banning asbestos. 

In addition to lung cancer, exposure to asbestos is linked to mesothelioma, a rare cancer that’s found in the lung, chest, abdomen and heart, and the lung disease asbestosis. A 2019 study estimated that nearly 40,000 Americans are killed each year from asbestos-related illnesses.

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