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Proposed US asbestos rules make headlines

In June this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed regulations related to asbestos. In the agency’s press release, it describes “a significant new use rule (SNUR) proposal enabling the Agency to prevent new uses of asbestos–the first such action on asbestos ever proposed.”

Only recently have environmental critics started to voice their disapproval and mainstream media have picked up on the story. An article suggesting asbestos rules would be weakened under the EPA proposal appeared in Fast Company in June. The Architect’s Newspaper in early August reported, “EPA is now allowing asbestos back into manufacturing.”

The federal agency is defending its actions. “The press reports on this issue are inaccurate,” EPA spokesman James Hewitt said in a statement reported by CBS News. “Without 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 EPA.”

Asbestos is also one of the ten chemicals the EPA will evaluate under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Agency’s problem formulation documents, released for comment in June, refine the scope of risk evaluations it will undertake. These documents are an interim step prior to completing and publishing the final risk evaluations by December 2019.

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