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Asbestos is a notoriously toxic substance. A known carcinogen, it can cause fatal illnesses including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancers of the lung, larynx, and ovaries. It is estimated that each year more than 40,000 Americans die from entirely preventable asbestos-caused diseases. Today, while asbestos is banned in nearly 70 countries, it is not banned in the United States.

There is still much more work to be done to truly protect us from this dangerous substance. All asbestos should be banned, not just individual fibers. 

Working with our partners at Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, we continue to fight for federal bans on asbestos.

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EPA and advocacy actions on asbestos
  • February 2024: EPA finalizes rule to ban the import, use, and manufacture of chrysotile asbestos.
  • April 2022: EPA proposes a ban on import, use, and manufacture of chrysotile asbestos, one of six asbestos fibers.  
  • October 2021: EPA settles with public health groups, committing to expand its planned “Part 2” asbestos risk evaluation to address the deficiencies in “Part 1” by looking at all of the six asbestos fiber types, and to evaluate the risks of “legacy” asbestos found in millions of buildings and in consumer products across the U.S. by December 1, 2024. 
  • February 2021: Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (now Toxic-Free Future’s federal policy program), the American Public Health Association, and four other public health organizations file suit to require the EPA to fill in the many gaping holes in its 2020 evaluation of asbestos.
  • December 2020: EPA issued final risk evaluation for asbestos, without addressing numerous aspects of asbestos exposure and risk, including the health impacts of legacy asbestos uses and associated disposal. The Agency stated its intent to conduct a future “Part 2” evaluation focused on legacy asbestos and other issues but provided no specifics about how it would be conducted and without a schedule for completion.
  • August 2020: EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) notes that EPA’s Part 1 risk evaluation “includes only a limited slice of the exposure” to asbestos, understates its carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic hazards, and disregards environmental pathways of exposure. EPA’s new risk management rule must provide an added level of protection to offset the large understatement of exposure and risk in Part 1.
  • November 2019: When EPA began its asbestos risk evaluation, it claimed that the risks of legacy asbestos to millions of workers, consumers, school children, and teachers were beyond its authority under TSCA and excluded legacy asbestos from its risk evaluation, an interpretation of the statute that was rejected in a decision (Safer Chemicals v EPA) by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • August 2017: We joined with coalition partners in filing a lawsuit (Safer Chemicals, et al v. U.S. EPA) when the Trump administration’s EPA, in one of its first actions under reformed TSCA, announced that it would look at only one of the six forms of asbestos. 
  • April 2017: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families founder Andy Igrejas accepted the 2017 Tribute of Inspiration award from Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), saying that the honor truly belonged to the families in the room and those they represented who had lost loved ones to asbestos-related diseases and turned their grief into activism.
  • March 2017: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (now Toxic-Free Future’s federal policy program), Healthy Building Network, and the Environmental Health Strategy urged the EPA to take action to protect the health of all Americans and the environment under TSCA after identifying three U.S. chemical companies that imported more than 4 million pounds of asbestos in the prior four years for use in 15 chlor-alkali plants.
  • June 2016: President Obama signed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act into law reforming TSCA, saying that the U.S. chemical system under TSCA was “so complex, so burdensome that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos.” 
  • April 2011: Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the Safe Chemicals Act to upgrade America’s outdated system for managing chemical safety.
  • 1991: EPA’s asbestos regulation was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (Corrosion Proof Fittings v. EPA). While acknowledging that “asbestos is a potential carcinogen at all levels of exposure,” the court ruled that EPA failed to demonstrate that the regulation was the “least burdensome alternative,” as required under the current law.
  • April 1989: EPA proposed to regulate most uses of asbestos, including brake linings, roofing, pipes, tile, and insulation.