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Decades of scientific evidence proving the harmful and often fatal effects of asbestos have been overshadowed by a judicial system wrought with legal obstacles that have allowed asbestos to continue to be imported, sold and utilized in the United States.
On June 22, 2016, then President Obama signed into law The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act—an amendment of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—aimed at updating the process for the evaluation and determination of whether or not regulatory control of an identified chemical is justified.
Nearly six months later on December 19, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of the initial ten chemicals selected for risk-evaluation under the amended TSCA.
Notably, asbestos was included in this first-round selection. This designation was viewed by many asbestos awareness advocates as a monumental step in the right direction towards achieving an eventual ban on asbestos in the United States.
While asbestos remains under evaluation for regulation by the EPA, data estimates from 2016 show that asbestos imports nearly doubled in comparison to 2015 with 705 metric tons of raw asbestos imported versus 343 metric tons.
In the United States, the chlor-alkali industry is the lone user of raw asbestos. Lobbyists from the American Chemistry Council are pushing hard on behalf of this industry to be granted an exemption under the amended TSCA that would allow for the continued importation and utilization of asbestos specific to this industry.
Is the United States on its way to overcoming the roadblocks imposed by the asbestos industry to join the more than 60 nations worldwide that have already banned asbestos? Or will bureaucratic industrial strongholds prevail? Time will soon tell.
Image: Chrysotile Asbestos