Commerce_22_05_digital - Page 34

■ Environmental Business

■ Environmental Business

Continued From Page 31
The proposed rule would ban chrysotile asbestos , the only known form of asbestos that ’ s currently imported into the United States , which is found in products like asbestos diaphragms , sheet gaskets , brake blocks , aftermarket automotive brakes / linings , other vehicle friction products , and other gaskets also imported into the U . S .
This proposal would rectify a 1991 court decision that largely overturned the USEPA ’ s 1989 ban on asbestos that significantly weakened the USEPA ’ s authority under TSCA to address risks to human health from asbestos or from any other existing chemical . With the 2016 amendments to TSCA , the law was radically transformed with clear requirements and a mandate to comprehensively prioritize and evaluate chemicals and put in place strong and timely protections against any unreasonable risks .
The USEPA is also proposing targeted disposal and recordkeeping requirements in line with industry standards , Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements , and the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants ( NESHAP ). The proposed disposal and recordkeeping requirements would take effect 180 days after the effective date of the final rule .
Use of asbestos in the United States has been declining for decades , and its use is banned in more than 50 countries . Although there are several known types , the only form of asbestos known to be currently imported , processed or distributed for use in the United States is chrysotile . Raw chrysotile asbestos currently imported into the United States is used exclusively by the chlor-alkali industry . Most consumer products that historically contained chrysotile asbestos have been discontinued . In December 2020 , the USEPA issued a final risk evaluation that found unreasonable risks to human health from conditions of use associated with six categories of products .
To address these unreasonable risks , the proposed rule would prohibit manufacture ( including import ), processing , distribution in commerce , and commercial use of chrysotile asbestos for six categories of chrysotile asbestos-containing products : asbestos diaphragms , sheet gaskets , oilfield brake blocks , aftermarket automotive brakes and linings , other vehicle friction products , and other gaskets . The proposed prohibition on the manufacture , processing , and distribution in commerce will also address consumer exposure to chrysotile asbestos . The prohibitions relating to asbestos diaphragms and sheet gaskets for commercial use are proposed to take effect two years after the effective date of the final rule ; the proposed prohibitions relating to oilfield brake blocks , aftermarket automotive brakes and linings , other vehicle friction products and other gaskets for commercial use are proposed to take effect 180 days after the effective date of the final rule .
Chlor-alkali chemicals are used in sectors important to the national economy and in operations that can help protect human health such as drinking water treatment , which uses chlorine manufactured through the chlor-alkali process . While chlorine is a commonly used disinfectant in water treatment , there are only 10 chlor-alkali plants in the United States that still use asbestos diaphragms to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide . One plant is expected to close this year . The nine remaining chlor-alkali plants using asbestos diaphragms range in age from 40 to 123 years old and none have increased use of asbestos diaphragms in approximately 17 years . The use of asbestos diaphragms has been declining and these remaining plants only account for about one-third of the chlor-alkali production in the country . Alternatives to asbestos-containing diaphragms for chlor-alkali plants exist , and the use of alternatives , specifically membrane cells , accounts for almost half of the country ’ s chlor-alkali production .
In addition to addressing the significant human health effects of chrysotile asbestos exposure , the USEPA ’ s proposal , if finalized , is also expected to generate health benefits from reduced air pollution associated with electricity generation as chlor-alkali production is one of the most energy-intensive industrial operations .
32 COMMERCE www . commercemagnj . com