Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally and is used for industrial purposes. Furthermore, it does not possess the qualities to conduct electricity. Asbestos causes several diseases, including cancer; thus, the mineral is prohibited in many countries, including Brazil and Canada, while countries such as the United States prohibit asbestos mining. Nonetheless, the importation and use of asbestos remain legal. Although there were many asbestos regulations in the United States, in 1989, the mineral was partially banned. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered that most asbestos-containing goods, such as rollboard and flooring felt, be banned in the United States.IARC has enough evidence to prove that asbestos causes mesothelioma ( rare cancer).
Asbestos Prohibition Efforts in the United States
The EPA released the asbestos ban and phase-out rule in 1989. It implies that there will be a complete prohibition on the production, importation, processing, and sale of products that contain asbestos. Furthermore, after August 25, 1989, the EPA prohibited asbestos for new purposes, which means that new goods containing asbestos should be prevented from distribution.
Up until now, the ABPR (asbestos ban and phase-out rule) has been the most successful effort to outlaw asbestos on a federal level. Although the law did not last long, it sparked a counterattack from the different asbestos companies, and the critics believed the prohibition would increase unemployment and have economic repercussions.
Asbestos goods producers sued the Environmental Protection Agency in the historic case of corrosion-proof fittings v. EPA. The United States court of appeals lifted the prohibition on October 18, 1991, as the agency failed to prove that the prohibition was the least onerous option for controlling asbestos.
Conversely, the court conveyed an explanation to the EPA. It implies that asbestos items that were not processed, imported, or produced on July 12, 1989, might be subject to prohibition.
Regulation of Asbestos Schedule
1976: To prevent workplace exposure to asbestos, NIOSH (the national institute for occupational safety and health) recommends a ban.
1977: The EPA forbids the use of asbestos in some drywall repair materials and fake fireplace embers.
1978: Many uses of spray-on asbestos were prohibited because NESHAP (the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants) decided that there was an airborne exposure threat.
1989: many asbestos-containing products were banned due to the partial ban and the new uses of asbestos starting after August 25, 1989.
1991: The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down nearly the whole 1989 prohibition. Only five asbestos-containing goods were prohibited for production, importation, processing, and distribution. The five products are flooring felt, roll board, commercial paper, specialty paper, and corrugated paper.
Early 2000s Attempts to Outlaw Asbestos
In the 2000s, legislators announced two bills that would impose severe restrictions or a full prohibition on the use of asbestos. The laws are:
- The Murray bills
- The Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act
In 2002, Senator Murray announced the ban of the Asbestos in America Act, also known as the Murray bill.
Even though the bill was unanimously approved in the Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives did not approve of it. On the other hand, if the bill were passed, it would:
- Prohibit six regulated types of asbestos.
- Improved research on asbestos diseases
- Research asbestos-containing goods and areas with contamination.
Bruce Vento's Mesothelioma Prevention and Asbestos Ban Act
On September 15, 2008, the proposal was made. The main purpose of the bill was to reinforce the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) by prohibiting additional kinds of asbestos-containing goods.
Unfortunately, Congress declined to approve the bill.
Conversely, if the bill had passed, it would have mandated that the EPA establish a strategy and a program to:
- Increase consciousness among people regarding the chances of having asbestos in the house and workplace.
- Furnish information on and urge individuals to take part in research regarding diseases that are related to asbestos.
- Urge healthcare workers to give information regarding asbestos to both patients and patient's families.
Asbestos Laws in the U.S. Today
There has been some legislation regarding the strengthening of asbestos regulations. Additionally, since 2016, two laws related to asbestos have been approved, and the first approval came under President Barack Obama.
The Act was approved on June 22, 2016, while President Barack Obama was still in office. The legislation intends to make the TSCA restrictions more stringent.
It provides the potential for the EPA to prohibit asbestos and other threatening chemicals. Nevertheless, the EPA did not prohibit asbestos under this law under Trump's presidency.
The Lautenberg Act's contents are as follows:
- It's a pressing necessity for EPA to evaluate current substances with precise and enforceable timeframes.
- Chemical evaluations based on risk disclosure of chemical information to the public.
- EPA needs a steady source of revenue to fulfill the requirements under the new law.
Significant New Use Rule
The rule was proven on April 17, 2019, and the approval came under President Donald Trump. The rules call for the EPA's advice before reintroducing asbestos-containing goods into the market.
However, the ADAO (asbestos disease awareness organization) asserts that the Significant New Use Rule fails to take useful actions to safeguard public health.
Some applications that come under the SNUR
- Woven Goods
- Cement materials
- Arc chutes
Prohibition of Asbestos Around the Globe
Over 60 countries in the world have prohibited asbestos. Two of the most recognized brands of the mineral are in Canada and Brazil. In times past, Canada and Brazil were considered to be the biggest suppliers of asbestos to the United States. Canada stopped exporting the mineral to the United States as soon as the country prohibited asbestos in 2018.
Although the prohibition of asbestos in Brazil was implemented in 2017, Brazil has not halted the transport and supply of asbestos. Besides, between 2015 and 2018, Brazil imported about 96% of the mineral into the U.S.
Some Internationally Recognized Prohibitions
European Union: The European Union completely prohibited all six kinds of asbestos in 2005.
United Kingdom: The United Kingdom banned all six kinds of minerals in 1999.
The U.K. merged all the previous laws related to asbestos into one prohibition.
Turkey: Turkey banned all types of asbestos in 2010.
Australia: In 1983, asbestos mining in Australia came to an end. Australia prohibited blue and brown asbestos in the middle of the 1980s. On December 31, 2003, all types of asbestos were prohibited from being imported, manufactured, used, repurposed, sold, stored, and transported.
Is Asbestos Illegal in the United States?
Asbestos is not prohibited in the United States, but numerous attempts have been made to prohibit it throughout the years. Moreover, the United States still imports and uses the mineral.
About 114 metric tons of the mineral were imported during the first three months of 2022.
The United States International Trade Commission estimates that asbestos imports will exceed 100 metric tons in 2021. The importation of the mineral has been active, even though mining asbestos has not taken place in the United States since 2002.
In the late 1970s, asbestos was phased out of many industries and products. Following the TSCA, limitations were put on the mineral (Toxic Substance Control Act,1976). There were also some requests from the trade and labor communities to emphasize workplace safety. As a result of this demand, the use of asbestos decreased significantly, forcing manufacturers to seek alternative materials.
Health Effects Caused When Exposed to Asbestos
Individuals can experience exposure to asbestos at their workplaces or in their homes. When an individual disturbs goods that have asbestos, little asbestos fibers are emitted into the air. If an individual inhales asbestos fiber, it gets stuck in the lungs and stays there for a long period. As time passes, the fibers can build up and result in inflammation and scarring, which may impact breathing and cause severe health issues.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) believes that they have enough proof to prove that the mineral leads to mesothelioma (rare cancer) and cancers related to the lungs and ovaries, and most mesotheliomas are caused by asbestos exposure. According to research, mesothelioma kills about 3,000 individuals every year, and about 15,000 individuals suffer from asbestos-related diseases in the United States.
Asbestos exposure will be responsible for the possibility of asbestosis (asbestosis is an inflammatory disease that impacts the lungs and leads to short breaths, coughing, and permanent damage to the lungs) and other pleural conditions such as pleural thickening. Individuals affected by the pleural condition due to asbestos exposure are in danger of lung cancer.
Asbestos has several uses, as it is used to make many industrial goods such as cement and paper products. However, asbestos use causes a variety of diseases, including cancer and mesothelioma; thus, countries such as Canada and Turkey have banned all kinds of asbestos.
However, there is no asbestos prohibition in the United States, even though approximately 3,000 people suffer from mesothelioma each year. Conversely, one of the main reasons for asbestos-related diseases is a lack of awareness among people in the United States, and giving up smoking is a considerably more preferred option to reduce the chances of cancer among asbestos workers.