EPA Open Comments for Asbestos Ban

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed an chrysotile asbestos ban to essentially rid the U.S. of all forms of asbestos. Although there is support from people, chlorine chemical plant corporations are steadily fighting the ban as it could affect their standard operations.

Asbestos chrysotile fibers that can cause lung disease and mesothelioma

UPDATE: Chrysotile Asbestos has been banned by the FDA. Find out more in our recent 2024 Asbestos Ban Blog.

Why the EPA is Proposing a Chrysotile Asbestos Ban 

Chrysotile asbestos has been allowed for import and use in the production of chlorine for many years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced they have proposed a full ban on all asbestos production and use in the U.S., which would include chrysotile asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos is a white material that has curly fibers and a textured structure. It is the most common use of asbestos in the U.S. as it is used in 90 to 95 percent of buildings that contain the mineral. Aside from being used in the production of chlorine, it can also be found in asphalt, gaskets, cement, plastics, and more.

Companies that export chrysotile asbestos are consistently arguing with health officials about how safe the product is. Companies are arguing that a majority of the product is being used in items where the asbestos is encapsulated and can’t cause harm. Health professionals argue that all forms of asbestos can cause mesothelioma for those who are consistently working around it. Chrysotile asbestos is causing mesothelioma and asbestosis today, and the EPA asbestos ban could stop the continuation of cases.

Asbestos was introduced in the military during the 19th century. It wasn’t until the 1970s that news started to spread about the adverse health risks people were facing by inhaling and carrying asbestos fibers and dust around. Today, a majority of workplaces where there was a chance to be exposed to asbestos have included proper personal protective equipment and guidelines to follow if they were to come in contact with it.

How to Comment on EPA Asbestos Ban Proposal

The EPA is looking for the public to comment on their proposed rule for the asbestos ban. They want the public to feel safe to speak about how the asbestos ban could negatively or positively affect them. Corporations, like OxyChem, have their reasons to not support the asbestos ban, and they want to hear from others alike and different. To ensure your comment is filed properly, post your comment on Regulations.gov. This website is designed specifically for the public to have open comments on certain Federal government rules and proposals.

If you are considering commenting on the proposal, we encourage you to research more about asbestos and how it may be affecting others. As a veteran, where you have been exposed could range from where you live, the building you work in, secondhand exposure from others carrying asbestos, and more. In combination with your experience and what you’ve learned through your research, you can paint a picture by telling the EPA how asbestos has affected your life and others. You could inspire others to tell their story by adding your comment. The more the EPA sees people talking about the positives of banning asbestos, the higher the likelihood they pass the proposal.

ProPublica Reports Asbestos Poisoning in Chlorine Chemical Plant

The EPA asbestos ban proposal could force the business of chlorine chemical plants in the U.S. to change their standard operating processes to accommodate the asbestos ban. Chlorine chemical plants have been using chrysotile asbestos to heat protect their tanks for years. A majority of them make use of proper personal protective gear (PPE) and follow guidelines to protect their employees from asbestos exposure, but a New York chemical plant was supposedly not following these rules. The chemical plant OxyChem shut down in 2021 citing that the location wasn’t ideal for business anymore and decided to shut down the facility.

Others speculate that their reasoning was to distract from the accusations they were intentionally exposing their employees to asbestos by ignoring rules of operation and not using PPE. Workers from the now-closed OxyChem plant have spoken out about their experiences while working at the plant. Some say they supposedly saw inches of asbestos dust in the building’s rafters.

Typical Chemical Plant Asbestos Intaking Procedures

The process of intaking asbestos at the plant was simple. Workers exposed themselves to asbestos when they took the chrysotile asbestos bags in and transported them inside to be used on the tanks. These tanks held salt water which was to be separated as their raw substances of chlorine, caustic soda, and hydrogen. To ensure these substances were kept separate, workers had to add new asbestos-wrapped sheets to the tanks.

The process started by spraying high-pressure water on the tanks to remove the old asbestos. Then, after it was all off, they took another sheet of asbestos, dipped it in a water and asbestos mixture, and finally baked it in an oven to cure it before putting it on the tank. This process put asbestos in the air to flow freely, and onto the clothing, of any worker coming in and out of the facility.

Though this process wasn’t completed with zero protective equipment, what they were given still wasn’t up to the standard protocol written for all chlorine chemical plants that used asbestos. The workers were given aprons, masks, and suits for certain tasks, but with them on, they were often walking into other areas of the building without changing or disposing of the asbestos protective equipment they were wearing. The impact of these practices may not be known until people begin to show signs of asbestos poisoning, mesothelioma, or asbestosis.

Potential Impact of EPA Asbestos Ban on Public Health and Environment

The EPA asbestos ban would stop the manufacturing, import, and use of asbestos in any capacity. The potential impact of the ban could be disastrous for chlorine plants like OxyChem and Olin Corporation are fighting against the ban citing it would force unnecessary change to their standard operating processes. Chemical plants would be forced to find another substance that could replace asbestos. It is important for the substance to have the same heat-resisting capabilities. If the chlorine, caustic soda, and hydrogen, which are being separated at the plants, are mixed it could cause an explosion. If the ban took place immediately, some plants would have to shut down until they find a proper substitute.

The public would benefit from having cleaner air to breathe in, no asbestos-contaminated drinking water, and could potentially end mesothelioma altogether. It is still undecided what would happen to items that contain asbestos but aren’t posing any health risks right now. The arguments between the chemical chlorine plants and health officials will continue until the EPA makes a final decision.

What are the First Signs of Asbestos Poisoning?

Asbestos poisoning can occur when people are consistently exposed to the mineral. Asbestos fibers when inhaled can attach themselves to the linings of the lungs, causing issues with breathing. The symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestosis are similar and can be mild or severe in nature depending on how much asbestos has been inhaled and over what period of time. Since the diseases may have a long period of being invisible, symptoms may not be present immediately after exposure.

Mild symptoms of mesothelioma may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever/night sweats
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite

More severe symptoms of mesothelioma may include:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Weight loss
  • Fluid buildup around the lungs
  • Blood clots

The treatment of mesothelioma is heavily dependent on what stage the cancer you are in. If you are a veteran and have been exposed to asbestos, you should consider getting tests done to ensure you don’t have mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos poisoning. The earlier you take charge of your health, the better your outcome can be. If you worked at a chlorine chemical plant, or were exposed to asbestos during military service you are eligible for financial compensation.

If you were subsequently diagnosed with mesothelioma after military service, you should explore your legal options for compensation. Your settlements could be worth up to a million dollars. What type of lawsuit you file depends on your age of diagnosis, your exposure history, and what legal venue you are at. File a wrongful exposure lawsuit, apply for veteran’s benefits for your exposure, or see what other options are available from your unlawful asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnosis.