EPA Draft Risk Evaluation Examines Asbestos Conditions of Use
A new draft risk evaluation published by EPA in late March identifies “unreasonable risk” associated with exposure to asbestos. The draft document describes how workers, consumers, and bystanders could be adversely affected by asbestos under certain conditions of use. EPA evaluated 33 uses for asbestos, including processing and industrial use of asbestos diaphragms in the chlor-alkali industry and asbestos-containing sheet gaskets in chemical production. The agency also examined the commercial use and disposal of aftermarket automotive asbestos-containing brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products, and other asbestos-containing gaskets. Another occupational condition of use evaluated by EPA was the industrial use and disposal of asbestos-containing brake blocks in the oil industry. The chlor-alkali industry uses electrolysis of sodium chloride solutions to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide. The semipermeable asbestos diaphragms used in the industry prevent chlorine generated at the anode of an electrolytic cell from reacting with sodium hydroxide generated at the cathode, according to reports from the U.S. Geological Survey. Annual summaries from USGS of mineral use in the United States indicate that the chlor-alkali industry accounted for 100 percent of domestic consumption of asbestos in 2018 and 2019—681 metric tons and an estimated 100 metric tons, respectively.  EPA urges workers who use asbestos products to follow label and safety data sheet instructions, adhere to applicable workplace regulations, and use appropriate personal protective equipment.  The Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals—a federal advisory committee charged with providing scientific advice, information, and recommendations to EPA on chemicals regulated under Toxic Substances Control Act legislation—was originally scheduled to review the draft risk evaluation during a virtual public meeting April 27–30. Citing changes in the availability of committee members, EPA rescheduled for June 8–11 and changed the format to a virtual meeting, with participation only by phone and webcast. Registration is required for all participants. Information about the meeting is available in the docket on Regulations.gov. EPA’s new draft risk evaluation of asbestos is the ninth published by the agency under the amended TSCA legislation. As amended by the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, TSCA requires EPA to complete risk evaluations for 10 chemicals—1,4-dioxane; 1-bromopropane; asbestos; carbon tetrachloride; cyclic aliphatic bromides cluster (HBCD); DCM (methylene chloride); NMP (n-methylpyrrolidone); pigment violet 29; perc (tetrachloroethylene); and TCE (trichloroethylene)—within three to three-and-a-half years. EPA issued its tenth draft risk evaluation for tetrachloroethylene in April.  More information on EPA’s risk evaluation for asbestos, including a PDF copy of the draft document, is available on the agency’s website