EPA Introduces the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) But Giant Loopholes Still Remain

EIA members have been waiting for the EPA’s next move regarding a potential ban of asbestos in the US, and here it is! We share with you below three different perspectives on EPA’s action yesterday (April 17) to release a SNUR for asbestos. We will share more with you as other press outlets comment on EPA’s action. The first perspective is EPA’s own press release regarding the SNUR. The second perspective is from “The Hill” in Washington, DC, and the third perspective is from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). 

EPA STRENGTHENS REGULATION OF ASBESTOS TO CLOSE LOOPHOLE AND PROTECT CONSUMERS
EPA

National - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a broad new rule that strengthens the agency’s ability to rigorously review an expansive list of asbestos products that are no longer on the market before they could be sold again in the United States. This important step closes a 30-year-old loophole that allowed old asbestos uses and products to come back to the market without any reviews or restrictions from EPA. Today’s action gives EPA the authority to prohibit the use of certain products or put in place restrictions to protect public health. This action does not alter the prohibitions made in a 1989 partial ban. For the full text of this press release, click here.

CRITICS SAY NEW EPA RULE COULD REINTRODUCE ASBESTOS USE
The Hill
by Rebecca Beitsch
National - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Wednesday a new rule they say will limit the use of asbestos in the U.S., but critics, including some of the agency’s own staff, describe it as a half measure that could reintroduce some asbestos products to the market. Under the new rule, manufacturers must notify and seek approval from the EPA before resuming use of asbestos in certain cases. Many argue the review process itself could reopen the door to 15 uses of the substance while questioning why the agency didn’t outright ban asbestos. For the full text of this article, click here.

EIGHT WAYS EPA'S SIGNIFICANT NEW USE RULE FAILS TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC FROM ASBESTOS
Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization

  1. The SNUR is NOT a ban on asbestos. It merely requires companies to notify EPA if they plan to reintroduce one of the obsolete asbestos products listed by EPA in the final rule.
  2. EPA can decide to take no action after a company has provided notice of its plans to reintroduce one of the listed products. If EPA takes no action, the manufacture and sale of the discontinued product could resume without restriction. There is no guarantee EPA will in fact restrict any of these products if they return to the marketplace.
  3. EPA easily could have included these obsolete products in its ongoing asbestos risk evaluation, which could have then enabled the agency to permanently and unconditionally ban them from the US.   
  4. The SNUR would not affect Libby Amphibole, winchite- richterite, a form of asbestos that is extremely hazardous and has caused numerous deaths in Montana and throughout the nation.
  5. Imports of raw asbestos and currently imported asbestos-containing products would be outside the scope of the SNUR and could continue without restriction. This includes aftermarket automotive brakes/linings and other vehicle friction products, oilfield brake blocks, other gaskets and packing, plus the substantial imports of raw asbestos that are used in the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda.  
  6. The SNUR does not affect -- and EPA is not addressing --  consumer products contaminated with asbestos that put children and families at risk.
  7. The SNUR applies to products like asbestos cement and woven fabric, which EPA and USGS have previously identified as materials currently being imported into the US. This creates a regulatory loophole that removes these products from the scope of the EPA’s ongoing asbestos risk evaluation and exempts them from a possible ban.
  8. The SNUR creates uncertainty. A ban on all asbestos imports and uses avoids the limited scope of this rule and provides assurance that asbestos exposure will be permanently eliminated.  

For the full text of this article, click here.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom Laubenthal

    Apr. 19, 2019

    The EPA press release commotion on the reported "ban" activities is nothing more than a marketing tool to justify their existing significant new use rule (SNUR) proposal...it's NOT an announcement of a complete ban on asbestos products. At best, it slows down the importation and manufacturing of products that contain asbestos that have been legally used in the US for years. As a reminder, we had to opportunity got get a complete asbestos ban thought the ongoing TSCA review process. The current administration turned it around 180 degrees and turned it into a SNUR...the opposite of a complete ban. If the SNUR passes the door is still open to products that contain asbestos that would have to be reviewed by the EPA. I have my doubts that the EPA will stymie all uses. Who will monitor imports? Does anyone believe that importers/exporters will "self notify" the EPA if bringing products into the US...unlikely. There are only a couple of people within the EPA i9n DC that have any real working knowledge of asbestos issues and it's not likely that monitoring of import minutiae will be on their radar. And...labeling? No requirements for that...and I have no confidence in the SDS system for asbestos for those that would add asbestos or have asbestos in their products as amphiboles with talc. In the long run...this has to do with massive asbestos use by the chlor-alkali industry...big business that makes big profits and wields big influence in Washington. They do not want to give up asbestos filtration in the factories where it is being used. Read the details...it matters!

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  2. J Brent Kynoch

    Apr. 19, 2019

    EPA is touting the SNUR as a move to protect public health, which is a complete white wash. If the SNUR addresses products that are no longer in the stream of commerce, why not just "BAN" them once and for all? Why even allow for consideration of a product coming back to market? Another "fun fact" is there is no staff component at EPA prepared to review any submissions (called a SNUN) related to the SNUR. Conservative, Republican led governments in the US generally tend to find ways to make the federal government smaller. In this case, they are setting EPA up for growth.

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