The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a new framework that could allow new uses for asbestos in manufacturing.

Due to the many health risks associated with asbestos, the United States has imposed regulations on asbestos use, however, the new proposal known as a “significant new use rule” (SNUR), details how companies can find new uses for asbestos that will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Products that may now involve asbestos in the manufacturing process include adhesives, sealants, pipeline wraps, and a number of other products.

According to the EPA spokesman James Hewitt, “…the proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) EPA would not have a regulatory basis to restrict manufacturing and processing for the new asbestos uses covered by the rule. The EPA action would prohibit companies from manufacturing, importing, or processing for these new uses of asbestos unless they receive approval from the EPA.” Although the EPA says it is toughening oversight, the way in which the new rule is written has many consumer groups fearful asbestos will come back into more widespread use.

The EPA’s updated approach to evaluating chemicals is largely a result of changes imposed by the current presidential administration and former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. Unlike a 2016 Obama-era amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act that requires the EPA to constantly reevaluate the harmfulness of toxic chemicals, the EPA now focuses on how chemicals potentially cause harm through direct contact in the workplace. These new changes also overlook improper disposal or other means of contamination that could affect the public. The EPA’s current approach does not consult pre-existing information on the asbestos use, in spite of widely documented health risks associated with such usage.

Although the updated SNUR does not roll back current regulations, companies are now permitted new uses for asbestos so long as they notify the EPA at least 90 days in advance and the EPA approves the usage.

Many asbestos-related disease advocacy groups have strongly opposed the updated SNUR, asserting the proposed legislation gives companies more ways to use asbestos, even though it is undeniably dangerous. These same advocacy groups contend that the image of mesothelioma that is typically shown in TV advertisements is not an accurate representation of mesothelioma patients. More and more, mesothelioma patients are much younger individuals, including children and adolescents.

So why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos Nation, an organization that targets raising awareness of asbestos health risks, states that between 12,000 to 15,000 people in the U.S. dies as a result of asbestos exposure each year.

Advocacy groups, however, are not the only opponents of asbestos use. On its Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website, the British government has warned that asbestos “can be found in any building built before the year 2,000 and can cause as many as 5,000 deaths every year in the U.K. The HSE website also states “asbestos still kills around 5,000 each year”.

If you are concerned about asbestos in your home or building, you should contact a qualified professional. Rarefied Air Environmental inspectors are California Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH) certified and maintain the proper licensing to perform asbestos surveys in San Diego and throughout California.

Call Rarefied Air Environmental today for a free quote on an asbestos abatement survey!

Is cancer-causing asbestos back?