EPA may examine asbestos use by chlorine-alkali industry

In our post two weeks ago, we noted that changes in the Toxic Substances Control Act may lead the United States Environmental Protection Agency to closely examine the importation of brake lining material because of their asbestos content. A recent report now suggests that the EPA’s microscope may focus on a second industry that uses asbestos-containing products in its manufacturing processes.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Pub. L. No. 114-182), amended TSCA on June 22, to give the EPA expanded authority to investigate and oversee the safety of industrial chemicals. The U. S. Geological Survey has listed the manufacturers of chlorine and caustic soda as the primary importer of asbestos into the United States. Of the 358 tons of asbestos imported into the United States in 2015, the UGS said that the chlor-alkali industry accounted for 90 percent. Asbestos is used in one of the three processes that are used to produce both chemicals.

When the EPA banned asbestos use in 1989, the chlor-alkali industry was exempt from the ban because asbestos was used in the manufacturing process only while it was wet. Asbestos fibers do not generally become airborne if they are wet. However, the vice-president of the Environmental Working Group said recently that whether the EPA renews its attention to asbestos will be the test of the effectiveness of amendments to TSCA. “Few chemicals are as dangerous asbestos; there is no question it poses a health risk,” he said.

The dangers of asbestos exposure have not disappeared, even though they have been substantially reduced. Asbestos product exposure causes three main diseases: mesothelioma, an especially lethal form of lung cancer, asbestosis disease, a disease that significantly reduces lung function, and other forms of lung cancer. Anyone with symptoms of any of these diseases may wish to consult a law firm that specializes in handling product liability suits to recover damages caused by asbestos exposure; such a consultation can provide a useful assessment of the claim and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: Bloomberg BNA, “EPA Asbestos Review May Trigger Probe of Chlorine Industry,” Pat Rizzuto, Sep. 12, 2016