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EPA makes 'historic' ruling to ban hazardous material: 'A symbol of how [the] law can and must be used'

"Congress has a role to play here when it comes to providing stronger protections for our health."

"Congress has a role to play here when it comes to providing stronger protections for our health."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Environmental Protection Agency has finally succeeded in fully banning a toxic chemical from various products because of its health implications.

Despite banning asbestos in 1989, a Court of Appeals decision two years later meant the organization's ability to enforce the rule was diminished. The appeal meant that only new asbestos products would be banned and that those it already featured in could not be prohibited, ABC News reported.

Now, the EPA has succeeded in banning chrysotile asbestos, the only type of asbestos still being used in the United States.

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and the EPA estimates it is linked to around 40,000 deaths in the country a year, as reported by ABC News. 

Arguably, the enforcement of the ban was helped by a 2016 change to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which led to a shift in how safety concerns from chemicals are addressed. 

"The failed asbestos ban from over 30 years ago was the reason why we needed to rewrite TSCA," assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff said, per ABC News. "Today's rule is important for public health, but it's also a symbol of how the new law can and must be used to protect people."

"Asbestos has harmed people across the country for decades, and under President Biden's leadership, we are taking decisive action to ban its use and advance this administration's historic environmental justice agenda," added White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, in a statement.

Chrysotile asbestos is used in brake linings and gaskets, as well as chlorine bleach and sodium hydroxide, according to the Associated Press. It is typically imported from Brazil and Russia, and it can also be used in water treatment processes. 

As NPR reported, exceptions for continued use include the production of titanium dioxide and the disposal of nuclear material.

The use of asbestos has been completely prohibited in more than 50 countries, per the Associated Press, and while lawmakers have hailed the progressive move, Senator Jeff Merkley observed that this isn't the final word on asbestos.

"It cannot be the end of the road when it comes to phasing out other dangerous asbestos fibers,'' he told the AP. "Congress has a role to play here when it comes to providing stronger protections for our health.''

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