EPA Finalizes Asbestos Exposure Reporting Rule
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a final rule to require comprehensive reporting on all six fiber types of asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The final rule will require asbestos manufacturers, importers and processors to report certain use and exposure information from the past four years, including information on asbestos-containing products, including as an impurity.
“We know that exposure to asbestos causes cancer and other serious health problems that still result in thousands of people dying every year, and today we’re continuing our work to protect people from this dangerous chemical,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michal Freedhoff.
“We’ve already proposed to ban chrysotile asbestos, and the data we’ll receive from this final rule will help us to better evaluate and address the health risks from the remaining uses and types of asbestos.”
According to the release, the EPA intends to use data collected through this reporting rule to help inform future actions involving asbestos, including the ongoing risk evaluation for “legacy uses” of asbestos, also known as part 2, and potential future risk management activities resulting from that risk evaluation under TSCA.
Additionally, the EPA’s completed risk evaluation of ongoing chrysotile asbestos uses, or part 1, included uses where asbestos may be part of a product, like brake blocks and gaskets. This rule could reportedly help identify other products that contain different types of asbestos.
Manufacturers, importers or processors of asbestos between 2019 and 2022 with annual sales above $500,000 in any of those years are now required to report exposure-related information, including quantities of asbestos manufactured or processed, types of use, and employee data.
The rule also covers asbestos-containing products and asbestos that is present as a component of a mixture. Facilities subject to the rule will have nine months following the effective date of the final rule to collect and submit all required information to the EPA, the agency reports.
Toxic Substances, Asbestos Review Background
In June 2016, the EPA named asbestos as one the first ten chemicals to undergo risk evaluation under TSCA. At the time, the Obama Administration only planned to focus on asbestos on chrysotile asbestos as it was the only asbestos fiber type imported, processed and distributed in the United States.
The following year, the EPA released the scope document for the risk evaluation for asbestos part 1, which included the hazards, exposures, conditions of use and the potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations EPA expected to consider in its risk evaluation of asbestos conducted pursuant to TSCA section 6(b).
Despite these issues, in June 2018, the EPA released the problem formulation for the risk evaluation for asbestos part 1. According to the Agency, the formulation was updated to clarify chemical conditions of use and better described how the EPA planned to conduct the evaluation.
In November of that year, the EPA was pushed to further evaluate legacy uses and associated disposals, other types of asbestos fibers in addition to chrysotile, and conditions of use of asbestos in talc and talc-containing products in a supplemental effort. The push was the result of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Safer Chemicals Healthy Families v. EPA and is the focus of part 2 of the risk evaluation for asbestos.
In December 2020, the EPA released part 1 of the final risk evaluation for asbestos finding that there were unreasonable risks to workers, occupational non-users, consumers and bystanders from 16 out of 32 conditions of use. While the EPA strongly recommended that users carefully follow all instructions on an associated product’s label, it found no reasonable risks to the environment.
By June 2021, the EPA announced important policy changes surrounding risk evaluations issued under the TSCA by the previous administration and the path forward for the first 10 chemicals to undergo risk evaluation. This review was done in accordance with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Orders and other directives, including those on environmental justice, scientific integrity, and regulatory review.
At the end of that December, the EPA requested public input on its draft scope document for the TSCA Risk Evaluation for Asbestos Part 2: Supplemental Evaluation Including Legacy Uses and Associated Disposals of Asbestos.
According to the EPA, for the second part of the asbestos risk evaluation the Agency adopted the definition of asbestos as defined by TSCA Title II Section 202 as the “asbestiform varieties of six fiber types—chrysotile (serpentine), crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite or actinolite.”
Additionally, the EPA plans to consider Libby Amphibole Asbestos (and its tremolite, winchite and richterite constituents) and relevant conditions of use of asbestos in talc or talc-containing products in part 2 of the risk evaluation. The draft scope also plans to reflect the Agency’s recent policy changes, which include the consideration of exposures from air and water, and potential exposure to fenceline communities.
At the beginning of April 2022, the EPA proposed a ban on chrysotile asbestos under section 6(a) of the TSCA. According to the American Public Health Association, the deadly carcinogen has been linked to about 40,000 deaths in America each year.
While most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued, chrysotile asbestos remains the only form known to be currently imported, processed or distributed for use in the U.S. and is used exclusively by the chlor-alkali industry and electricity generation.
If passed, the EPA believes that there will also be a result in health benefits from reduced air pollution associated with energy-intensive industrial operations.
To address the unreasonable risks, the proposed rule would prohibit manufacture (including import), processing, distribution in commerce and commercial use of chrysotile asbestos for six categories of chrysotile asbestos-containing products: asbestos diaphragms, sheet gaskets, oilfield brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products and other gaskets.
The proposed prohibition on the manufacture, processing and distribution in commerce also plans to address consumer exposure to chrysotile asbestos. In addition, the EPA proposed targeted disposal and recordkeeping requirements in line with industry standards, Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements and the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).
The following month the EPA announced a proposed rule to require more comprehensive reporting on asbestos as the Agency continues to protect the public from exposure.
Then, in July 2022, the EPA released the final scope document for the TSCA Risk Evaluation for Asbestos Part 2: Supplemental Evaluation Including Legacy Uses and Associated Disposals of Asbestos.
The EPA notes that the final scope document also reflects the Agency’s policy changes on risk evaluations announced in June 2021. These policy changes include the addition of exposure pathways that may also be regulated outside of TSCA, like air, water and disposal.
In addition, the EPA reports that it will not assume that personal protective equipment (PPE) is always properly utilized in occupational settings in our future risk determinations, including for part two of the risk evaluation for asbestos.
In not assuming proper PPE use, the EPA further recognizes that unreasonable risk may exist for subpopulations of workers that may be highly exposed because they are not covered by OSHA standards, their employers are out of compliance with OSHA standards, or because OSHA has not issued a permissible exposure limit.