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Welcome back to the Now Environmental Services blog. As the leading provider of asbestos training, testing, and abatement services in the Seattle and Federal Way area, we’re committed to empowering our customers, neighbors, and friends with the information they need to make decisions that keep themselves and others safe from the harmful effects of asbestos. That’s why we’re addressing a common misconception that asbestos has been banned in the United States.

Is Asbestos Really Banned?

Well, yes and no. If you recall from our previous blog post, the Federal Government took aggressive steps toward banning this harmful substance. The 1970 Clean Air Act was the first time that Congress recognized asbestos as harmful to human health, and that it shouldn’t be used in the construction of homes or business. In 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act allowed Congress to start banning the production and use of any products or materials that contained asbestos. By 1989, the Asbestos Ban and Phaseout Rule was issued by the EPA in an effort to completely halt the manufacturing, importation, and sale of asbestos-related products.

The Next Phase Of The Asbestos Conversation

While the various legislations, bills, and acts regarding asbestos began to help the problems with the use of asbestos, there were private industries that felt that these measures were too heavy-handed. These groups felt that these strict measures were reactionary and not based on evidence. The EPA, they claimed, was using a sub-standard rulemaking process to create laws based on limited evidence of the negative health effects of asbestos.

In 1991, a group of asbestos manufacturers, as represented by Corrosion Proof Fittings sued the EPA. Corrosion Proof Fittings structured their case around the wording of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. In it, the act notes that the EPA should use the “least burdensome” regulations to restrict the use and production of asbestos and to minimize any related health risks. An outright ban Corrosion Proof Fittings argued, was far from the “least burdensome” measure that the EPA could enforce. In fact, it was perhaps the most burdensome, as it affected established businesses and industries.

In response, the EPA noted that the potential health effects of the use and production of asbestos were so severe that the least burdensome measure would be an outright ban. The EPA had considered simply enforcing the labeling and marking of asbestos-based products, but felt that this was an ineffective strategy.

Changing Laws Surrounding Asbestos

Ultimately, the 5th Circuit courts sided with Corrosion Proof Fittings. In their decision, the court found that the EPA had failed to present “substantial evidence” that justified the asbestos ban under the TSCA. Similarly, the court didn’t feel that the EPA had provided sufficient evidence of reasonable alternatives for asbestos, as they didn’t measure their costs and potential health effects. The result was that the EPA was no longer able to ban this harmful product.

Despite numerous studies, and documented cases of severe health concerns, and even death, asbestos is still produced and used throughout the United States today. However, the EPA was able to ban the use of asbestos in a few products, including corrugated paper, rollboard, specialty papers, and flooring felt. Additionally, the EPA restricted the development of any new uses for asbestos. While this doesn’t restrict the existing breadth of products made with asbestos, it prevents any further products from being made with this harmful substance.

What Does This Mean For You?

Fortunately, the EPA announced in 2016 that it was going to evaluate 10 chemicals that put human health at risk as part of the TSCA reform. Its close connection to lung cancer and mesothelioma makes asbestos a target for the EPA once again. Hopefully, these reforms lead to more comprehensive measures against the use and production of asbestos.

For homeowners in the Seattle and Federal Way area, it’s important to be aware of the risks of asbestos. While measures were taken in the 1970s and 1980s, and many asbestos-based products were no longer used by homemakers, some homes still have asbestos in them. From the infamous “popcorn” ceilings to insulation, and even flooring tiles, asbestos can be found in many forms throughout a home. Testing for asbestos in your home, whether you’re planning on buying a new home or simply renovating your current home, is an important part of keeping you and your family healthy and safe. Call Now Environmental Services today for a free phone consultation.