The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed a rule to finally ban asbestos, a carcinogen that is still used in some chlorine bleach, brake pads and other products and kills thousands of Americans every year.
The proposal marks a major expansion of EPA regulation under a landmark 2016 law that overhauled rules governing tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.
The proposed rule would ban chrysotile asbestos, the only ongoing use of asbestos in the United States. The substance is found in products such as brake linings and gaskets, and is used to manufacture chlorine bleach and sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan called the rule an important step to protect public health and “finally put an end to the use of dangerous asbestos in the United States.″
The proposed ban “demonstrates significant progress in our work to implement the (2016) law and take bold, long-overdue actions to protect those most vulnerable among us,” Regan said.
The 2016 law authorized new rules for tens of thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products, including substances such as asbestos and trichloroethylene that for decades have been known to cause cancer yet were largely unregulated under federal law. Known as the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, the law was intended to clear up a hodgepodge of state rules governing chemicals and update the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 1976 law that had remained unchanged for 40 years.
The EPA moved to ban asbestos in 1989, but the rule was largely overturned by a 1991 court decision that weakened EPA’s authority under TSCA to address risks to human health from asbestos or other existing chemicals. The 2016 law required the EPA to evaluate chemicals and put in place protections against unreasonable risks.
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