EPA Proposes Rule to Require More Comprehensive Reporting on Asbestos, Continuing Work to Protect Pu

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week announced a proposed rule that would require comprehensive reporting on asbestos as the agency continues its work to address exposure to the known carcinogen and strengthen the science used to protect people from this dangerous chemical. 

The proposed rule under section 8(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) would require asbestos manufacturers and processors to report certain use and exposure information, including information pertaining to asbestos-containing articles (including as an impurity).

Here’s how it would work: EPA would use data collected through this proposed rule to help inform future actions involving asbestos, including the ongoing risk evaluation for “legacy uses” of asbestos and potential future risk management activities resulting from that risk evaluation. 

For example, data collected on asbestos as an impurity could better inform the risk evaluation of the use of asbestos in talc. Additionally, EPA’s completed risk evaluation of ongoing asbestos uses included uses where asbestos may be part of an article, or a component of an end- use product, like brake blocks and gaskets. This proposed reporting rule would help identify if there are articles that contain different types of asbestos.

The proposed rule would require manufacturers and producers of certain types of asbestos and asbestos-containing articles (including as an impurity) in the last four years to report certain exposure-related information, including quantities of asbestos manufactured or processed, types of use, and employee data. 

Importantly, the proposed rule also covers asbestos-containing articles (including as an impurity) and asbestos that is present as a component of a mixture. As proposed, manufacturers and processors would have up to nine months following the effective date of the final rule to collect and submit all required information to EPA.

Upon publication in the Federal Register, EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 60 days via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2021-0357 at www.regulations.gov.

The newly unveiled rule is one component of what the EPA called “a comprehensive suite of actions” to address the risks to public health from asbestos. Last month, EPA proposed a rule that would prohibit ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos, the only known form of asbestos currently imported into the United States. It is the first-ever risk management rule issued under the new process for evaluating and addressing the safety of existing chemicals under the 2016 amendments to TSCA.

Under the previous Administration, EPA narrowed the scope of TSCA risk evaluation for asbestos by only reviewing certain uses of one fiber type of this chemical, chrysotile asbestos. The agency’s failure to consider additional asbestos fibers and its decision to exclude legacy uses and associated disposals of the substance resulted in litigation. 

In 2019, a court ruled that the agency unlawfully excluded “legacy uses” and “associated disposal” from TSCA’s definition of “conditions of use,” resulting in the need to expand the agency’s review of asbestos. EPA chose to finalize part one of its risk evaluation of asbestos and then turn to part two. The draft scope for part two of the risk evaluation includes legacy uses and associated disposals, other types of asbestos fibers in addition to chrysotile, and the use of asbestos in talc and talc-containing products.

Additionally, EPA released the draft scope for the second part of the asbestos risk evaluation in December 2021 and will publish the final risk evaluation by Dec. 1, 2024.

GASP remains concerned about asbestos, and exposure risk locally. 

“The Allegheny County Health Department’s robust enforcement actions related to asbestos abatement violations are shining a light on what we believe is a burgeoning air quality issue locally,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. “We’ll be following this closely.” 

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