January 7, 2021

EPA Finalizes Risk Evaluation of Chrysotile Asbestos

EPA’s final risk evaluation for chrysotile asbestos identifies several “unreasonable risks” to workers and others associated with exposure to asbestos. According to the agency, health risks include mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers from chronic inhalation of chrysotile asbestos.

The new document describes how workers, consumers, and bystanders could be adversely affected by asbestos under certain conditions of use. Uses that pose unreasonable risks to workers include processing and industrial or commercial use of diaphragms in the chlor-alkali industry, use and disposal of aftermarket automotive brakes and linings in commercial settings, sheet gaskets used in chemical production, industrial or commercial use and disposal of brake blocks in the oil industry, and commercial use and disposal of other vehicle friction products. Most consumer products containing chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued, but products such as aftermarket automotive brakes and linings and certain gaskets remain available and pose unreasonable risks to consumers, EPA says.

EPA urges workers and others who use asbestos products to follow label and safety data sheet instructions, adhere to applicable workplace regulations, and use appropriate personal protective equipment.

The final risk evaluation lists 16 conditions of use of chrysotile asbestos that EPA says do not present unreasonable risks. These uses include the import of chrysotile asbestos and chrysotile asbestos-containing products, the distribution of products containing chrysotile asbestos, and the disposal of chrysotile asbestos-containing sheet gaskets processed or used in an industrial setting.

Under Toxic Substances Control Act legislation, EPA has two years to finalize actions to address the unreasonable risks identified in its final risk evaluation of chrysotile asbestos. The agency’s press release states that “EPA is moving immediately to risk management for chrysotile asbestos and will work as quickly as possible to propose and finalize actions to protect against unreasonable risk.” EPA’s proposed actions could include regulation of how chrysotile asbestos is used. The agency may also limit or prohibit the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of chrysotile asbestos.

A second part of EPA’s risk evaluation for asbestos is still to come. The agency plans to publish a draft scope document for public comment in mid-2021. The second part of the risk evaluation will consider chrysotile and five other fiber types of asbestos: crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite or actinolite.