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Does the government really protect you from asbestos exposure?

Many people across the country and here in Louisiana are under the impression that the only place you find asbestos these days is in old buildings. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

The Environmental Protection Agency did ban certain uses of this toxic substance in 1989, but not all use. As recently as April 2019, the agency finalized rules regarding asbestos. Does it really protect you from exposure?

A summary of the new rule

First, the EPA wants the public to know that the materials banned in 1989 remain banned under the April 2019 rule. The agency claims that it will not allow new uses of the toxic substance and protects you from uses and products that are no longer on the market or are not currently covered under any other laws, rules or regulations. Some of the products prohibited or banned by the new rule include the following:

  • Pipeline wrap
  • Roofing felt
  • Flooring felt
  • Roof and non-roof coatings
  • Rollboard
  • Adhesives and sealants
  • Corrugated paper
  • Separators in batteries and fuel cells
  • Specialty paper
  • Vinyl-asbestos floor tiles
  • Commercial paper
  • Cement products
  • Packings
  • Other building products

This does not represent a complete list of products that shouldn't make it into the market because they contain asbestos. The rule also reiterated the ban on new processes using asbestos after Aug. 25, 1989. Other federal agencies also have certain rules regarding uses of asbestos as well, but the EPA appears to have the most comprehensive regulations for it. While this new rule provides you some protection from asbestos, it does have an exception.

The Toxic Substances Control Act

The EPA can conduct a risk evaluation in accordance with the TSCA for uses of asbestos not covered under the April 2019 rule or the 1989 ban, which the agency says most often concerns the following:

  • Aftermarket automotive brakes and linings
  • Asbestos diaphragms
  • Oilfield brake blocks
  • Sheet gaskets

The EPA also lists other gaskets and vehicle friction products. If the evaluation reveals that a product presents a danger to the public, it will address the issue by either banning or restricting its use. Ultimately, what this reveals is that the agency does approve the use of some asbestos products.

The risk of exposure continues

Anytime one uses this toxic substance, the risk of exposure remains, regardless of what the manufacturer, distributor or even the EPA says. While the agency may protect you from some uses of asbestos, it does not provide 100% protection. To this day, people continue to suffer from exposure, and when aware of it, they could spend years wondering whether they will suffer from an asbestos-related disease. Other people may never know of their exposure until one day when they receive such a diagnosis.

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