EPA Finalizes Rule Banning Chrysotile Asbestos

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made history this week. The agency finalized a rule that ends the use of chrysotile asbestos nationwide. This move bans the only type of asbestos currently used or imported in the United States.

Supporters say the rule is a “long overdue step forward for public health.” Asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma, lung cancer and other illnesses. Effectively banning current uses of the mineral could protect people in at-risk occupations.

But some advocates say the rule doesn’t go far enough because other types of asbestos are not banned.

Understanding the Chrysotile Asbestos Ban

The finalized rule bans “ongoing uses” of chrysotile asbestos but sets different end dates for each use. For example, the mineral cannot be imported for use in the chlor-alkali sector, effective immediately. But facilities can continue using on-hand asbestos products for a few more years.

The chlor-alkali industry currently uses asbestos diaphragms to make chlorine. Chlorine plays an integral role in public water systems nationwide.

The rule also covers:

  • Asbestos sheet gaskets: These gaskets are used in several applications. The rule bans most uses starting in 2026. Sheet gaskets used to process nuclear material will be phased out over a period of 5 – 12 years.
  • Asbestos-containing automotive products: Brakes, brake linings and other friction products are used in vehicles and the oil industry. These uses are banned starting late 2024.

Banning chrysotile asbestos could protect workers in these affected industries. However, many occupations will still be at risk of asbestos exposure without a comprehensive ban.

Occupations Impacted by the Chrysotile Ban

The Gap Between the Final Rule and a Total Asbestos Ban

The final rule pertains only to chrysotile asbestos. According to regulators, it is the only form of asbestos currently used or imported in the United States. But critics say the EPA may not have all the information, and regulators may be unaware of other uses.

The rule also fails to address legacy uses of the mineral. It does nothing to safeguard the public from asbestos building products in older homes and schools. But regulators are working to address this gap. The EPA has a risk evaluation underway for these types of asbestos materials. This same risk evaluation process ultimately led to the chrysotile ban.

Has the EPA Banned Asbestos?

No, the EPA has not yet fully banned asbestos in the United States. Chrysotile asbestos is banned, but the other types are not. And old asbestos products in existing structures are still permitted. But regulators are working toward a full ban, and lawmakers have signaled support for this effort.