On December 1, 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed asbestos as one of the 10 high-risk chemicals evaluated and regulated under the Lautenberg Act. What this means is that the EPA must release a scoping document within six months which includes the hazards, exposures, conditions of use and vulnerable populations the agency plans to consider for the risk evaluation. Next the EPA will have to complete a risk evaluation to determine whether the chemicals present an unreasonable risk to humans and the environment. Finally, if asbestos is found to pose an unreasonable risk, the EPA must take regulatory action, which translates to a complete asbestos ban within two years from that time. The EPA has previously determined that asbestos is a potential carcinogen at all levels of exposure and that there is no known safe level of exposure.
There was an attempted ban of asbestos by the EPA in 1989 but it was overturned when the chemical industry sued because of the ban’s negative effect on business. The chemical industry, represented by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) continues to fight for the right to use asbestos and insists that the mineral can be used safely. The chloralkali industry, which makes chlorine and sodium hydroxide, is responsible for about 90% of the asbestos use in the United States. The ACC fights for this industry in keeping the use of asbestos legal.