January 11, 2022


Advocates met today with Biden officials on the draft proposed risk management rule for asbestos. 

WASHINGTON, DC – Representatives from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)  met today with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk management rule for asbestos currently under OMB review. 

“We made it clear to EPA and OMB that anything less than a comprehensive ban of asbestos and asbestos-containing products would be a step backward in addressing the significant ongoing risks of asbestos to public health in the United States,” said Linda Reinstein, ADAO President. “EPA must use its broad authority under TSCA to eliminate all manufacture, importation, processing, distribution and disposal of asbestos and asbestos-containing mixtures and articles for all conditions of use addressed in EPA’s Part 1 risk evaluation.”

In a presentation to administration officials, we emphasized: 

  • After EPA’s 1989 asbestos ban was struck down by the courts, asbestos became the poster child for TSCA’s failure to protect public health. In amending TSCA in 2016, Congress gave EPA new tools to eliminate asbestos from U.S. commerce and expected it to use them forcefully. 
  • A known human carcinogen, asbestos is the most dangerous substance in use since the onset of the industrial revolution and continues to kill over 40,000 Americans each year. 
  • Asbestos is impossible to “manage” safely through controlled use. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “There is no evidence for a threshold for the carcinogenic effect of asbestos [and] increased cancer risks have been observed in populations exposed to very low levels.” Accordingly, “the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop using all types of asbestos.”
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has recognized that its occupational standard for asbestos would not eliminate significant cancer risks to workers. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is ineffective in protecting workers from unsafe exposure to asbestos. Because of its inherent limitations, OSHA’s 1986 asbestos standard ranked respirator use last in its recommended hierarchy of controls.  
  • According to EPA’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), the agency’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.
  • The use of asbestos for chlor-alkali manufacture must be banned. Part 1 shows cancer risks to workers and occupational non-users above the EPA benchmark (10 x 1-4) for unreasonable risk. Many producers have already moved to asbestos-free membrane technology and away from asbestos diaphragms.  
  • EPA’s recent shift to determining unreasonable risk for the “whole chemical substance” demands a comprehensive asbestos ban because any level of exposure can cause cancer and debilitating non-cancer disease, exposure to asbestos exists at all stages of its life cycle, asbestos risk is a function of the cumulative impact of multiple exposure pathways and fiber types, and that risk can only be prevented by eliminating all sources of exposure.  
  • EPA’s 1989 asbestos ban “concluded that source reduction actions . . .  rather than controlled use approaches are necessary to reduce the unreasonable risk posed by asbestos exposure” and that “because of the life cycle or ‘cradle­ to-grave’ nature of the risk posed by asbestos, attempts . . . to regulate the continued commercial use of asbestos still leave many persons unprotected from the hazards of asbestos exposure.” This is a powerful precedent for a comprehensive asbestos ban under amended TSCA.  

ADAO is grateful to EPA and OMB for taking the time to meet on these important issues. While the TSCA  regulatory process continues, we urge Congress to pass a commercial ban on asbestos. 


About the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

Founded in 2004, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) is the largest independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure to eliminate asbestos-related diseases through education, advocacy and community initiatives. For more information, visit ADAO, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, does not make legal referrals.