EPA Releases Final Risk Evaluations for Asbestos, Part 1: Chrysotile Asbestos
For Release: December 30, 2020
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final risk evaluation for asbestos, part 1: chrysotile asbestos. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA is required to evaluate the risks associated with exposure to existing chemicals in commerce using the best available science, and then take action to address any unreasonable risk identified. Today’s announcement completes the first part of the final risk evaluation for asbestos. Part 1 of the risk evaluation for asbestos is specific to chrysotile asbestos.
EPA used feedback received during the public comment period and the scientific peer review process carried out by the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals to inform the final risk evaluation for asbestos, part 1: chrysotile asbestos. Of the six use categories evaluated (chlor-alkali diaphragms, sheet gaskets, other gaskets, oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes/linings, and other vehicle friction products), EPA found that there is unreasonable risk to workers, occupational non-users, consumers, and/or bystanders within each of the six chrysotile asbestos use categories. EPA found no unreasonable risk to the environment.
The next step in the process required by TSCA is to address the unreasonable risk identified in the final risk evaluation. EPA is moving immediately to risk management for chrysotile asbestos and will work as quickly as possible to propose and finalize actions to protect against unreasonable risk. Potential actions EPA could take include regulation of how this chemical is used, limiting or prohibiting the manufacture, processing, distribution in the marketplace, use, or disposal of chrysotile asbestos, as applicable.
As a result of the November 2019 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Safer Chemicals Healthy Families v. EPA, the agency will evaluate legacy asbestos uses and associated disposals of asbestos in a supplemental effort that will be the focus of part 2 of the risk evaluation for asbestos. Legacy uses and associated disposals of asbestos are conditions of use for which manufacture (including import), processing and distribution in commerce no longer occur, but where use and disposal are still known, intended, or reasonably foreseen to occur (e.g., in older buildings).
EPA has started planning for part 2 of the risk evaluation for asbestos and will engage stakeholders as part of and following development of the draft scope document to identify any additional reasonably available information that is relevant to part 2. The draft scope document will be made available for public comment mid-year 2021. The draft scope document will be followed with a final scope document, a draft risk evaluation document for peer review and public comment, and then a final part 2 risk evaluation for asbestos. This risk evaluation will consider chrysotile and the other five fiber types of asbestos described in the TSCA Title II definition: crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite or actinolite.
Although there are several known types of asbestos, the only form of asbestos known to be imported, processed, or distributed for use in the United States is chrysotile. Raw chrysotile asbestos is used exclusively by the chlor-alkali industry. Certain products like sheet gaskets, brake blocks, and aftermarket automotive brakes/linings also contain chrysotile asbestos.
EPA has taken action to protect public health from certain uses of asbestos. Several uses of asbestos were banned in 1989 and remain banned. Additionally, in April 2019, EPA issued a final rule to ensure that asbestos products that are no longer on the market cannot return to commerce without the agency evaluating them and putting in place any necessary restrictions or prohibiting use.