The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a final rule prohibiting the ongoing use of chrysotile asbestos. The rule, which is the first to be finalized under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), sets timelines for compliance, ranging from immediate to several years. Affected industries include the chlor-alkali, chemical, oil, and vehicle friction sectors. The EPA is also requiring certain workplace-safety programs during the phase-out, and stated its intent to evaluate bans on other types of asbestos, including asbestos-containing talc.

Chlor-Alkali Sector

The announced rule immediately bans the import of chrysotile asbestos for use in the chlor-alkali sector, but the EPA acknowledges that this industry’s creation of chlorine is needed for water-purification purposes. Accordingly, the agency has given manufacturers from five to 12 years to convert their facilities so they no longer use asbestos-containing diaphragms. Manufacturers with only one plant to convert must complete the transition within five years. Those with two to three plants have eight and twelve years, respectively, to convert their facilities to non-asbestos membrane technology.

Sheet Gasket Sector

The rule bans most asbestos-containing sheet gaskets within two years, including those used in chemical production. However, the EPA acknowledges that some asbestos-containing sheet gaskets produce titanium dioxide for the processing of nuclear material. Thus, the rule allows for a five-year phase-out for sheet gaskets used in nuclear processing. Separately, the Department of Energy’s Savannah River site is permitted through 2037 to ensure the safe disposal of nuclear materials.

Friction Product Sector

Under the rule, manufacturers of oilfield brake locks, brakes/lining, and other vehicle friction products will have to comply with import and use bans that will go into place six months from the effective date of the rule.

Interim Requirements and Future Action

For industries with phaseout periods longer than two years, the EPA is requiring strict workplace safety measures to protect workers from exposure during the phase-out. The EPA also stated that it is evaluating the potential for a similar phase-out of other types of asbestos fibers, including asbestos-containing talc. It will publish a risk evaluation on these efforts by the end of 2024.

Our Mass Torts and Industry Wide Litigation team is following matters like this throughout New York and the nation. If you have questions about the EPA’s announcement or the adequacy of your company’s current practices and policies, please reach out to members of our team, Abbie Eliasberg Fuchs at 212-313-5408 and afuchs@harrisbeach.com; Brian A. Bender at (212) 313-5405 and bbender@harrisbeach.com; Bradley M. Wanner at (212) 912-3653 and bwanner@harrisbeach.com; Dominic Conoshenti at (212) 313-5436 and dconoshenti@harrisbeach.com; or the Harris Beach attorney with whom you most frequently work.

This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as Washington D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.