March 16, 2023

EPA Requests Additional Comments on Proposed Chrysotile Asbestos Ban

EPA is requesting additional public comments on aspects of its proposed rule to ban the manufacture, importation, processing, distribution in commerce, and commercial use of chrysotile asbestos. According to EPA, the agency received significant comment on its proposed ban, particularly regarding the rule’s effects on the chlor-alkali industry, which uses diaphragms made from chrysotile asbestos. In tomorrow’s Federal Register, EPA will publish additional data pertaining to chrysotile asbestos diaphragms as well as sheet gaskets containing chrysotile that are used in chemical production.

For the chlor-alkali and chemical production industries, the proposed ban on chrysotile asbestos would take effect two years after the effective date of the final rule. As explained in an unpublished version of tomorrow’s Federal Register notice, EPA received many comments regarding the feasibility of this timeline. Some comments argued that two years is not enough time for the chlor-alkali industry to transition away from asbestos-containing diaphragms. Other comments noted that timelines for similar transitions in other countries were significantly longer; for example, Canada and Germany allowed 11 years and 14 years, respectively. Factors that could affect the feasibility of EPA’s two-year timeline include the logistics of simultaneously converting several facilities and acquiring state permits for construction, according to the comments received by the agency. There were also concerns that the two-year timeline could result in a shortage of chlorine, which would prompt public health concerns given the chemical’s use in disinfecting public drinking water.

Comments in support of EPA’s proposed timeline were submitted by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

EPA also cites comments it received from AIHA regarding the feasibility of complying with proposed asbestos exposure limits during the interim period prior to a prohibition on use of chrysotile asbestos diaphragms. The AIHA comments (PDF) observe that “The proposed exposure limits of 0.005 f/cc and 0.0025 f/cc cannot be measured for an 8-hour work shift by existing sampling and analytical protocols for asbestos.”

Starting March 17, a notice requesting additional comments regarding these issues will be available from the Federal Register. The pre-publication version of the notice is available as a PDF.