From the blog

More Asbestos is Entering the Country Despite Regulations

Published: June 17, 2022

Growing levels of asbestos are coming into the United States, even though there is a push to tighten regulations and even ban the substance. The main user of asbestos, the chloralkili industry, imported around 114 metric tons of asbestos from January through March of 2022. This is much higher than the 100 metric tons of all of 2021. The companies are stockpiling the material because there is a proposed ban under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The products that would be banned include raw asbestos used by the chloralkili industry as well as vehicle friction products, brake blocks, sheet gaskets, diaphragms, and any other asbestos products.

A new rule was proposed in May that would require strict record keeping and reporting of asbestos products, which is not a requirement currently. The proposals are under review and a public comment period is currently underway. If passed, asbestos imports could be banned as soon as 2024. A different asbestos ban known as the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act just had a committee hearing in the Senate. The bill was introduced multiple times but has never passed. The bill would prevent the commercial use and importation of all asbestos, which is more comprehensive than the EPA proposal of only chrysotile asbestos.

If the bill moves forward, chloralkili plants that use asbestos would have two years to change to non-asbestos products. Asbestos is used in fireproof diaphragms that help make chlorine. There would also be mandatory reporting and an outreach program to ensure that companies are complying. Based on the current language, it is unlikely that the bill will pass.

Asbestos use in the United States peaked in 1973. Around 803,000 tons of asbestos was used in 1973 compared to 520 tons used per year in the last five years. Asbestos has been used in many different products because it has unique heat resistant and fire-resistant properties. When it is used in these products though, fibers can be released into the air which are then inhaled, leading to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers. It was estimated that 2021 consumption of asbestos came from stockpiled reserves. Around 320 tons were used. Since there has been a decline in asbestos use because of regulations, asbestos production stopped in the United States in 2002. Asbestos imports this year came from multiple countries including China and Brazil, which still mine the substance. Asbestos entered the country through the ports of New Orleans, Los Angeles, Houston, Galveston, and Norfolk.

E.A. Crunden, “U.S. asbestos imports surge despite crackdown” E&E News (May 12, 2022). [Link]
“Mineral Commodity Summaries 2022” USGS (2022). [Link]
Contact Us
Have you received a diagnosis? *