Asbestos is making headlines once again, after a long break from the spotlight. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR). It’s the agency’s effort to control specific uses of asbestos, including products that contain it. The proposal is an expansion of a 1989 EPA restriction.
Is America Allowing Asbestos Back Into Buildings?
What would the SNUR entail? And could this proposal mean widespread use of a known carcinogen?
The Proposal and the Reaction
The EPA’s proposal seeks to let businesses make, process, and import over a dozen asbestos-containing products that are no longer in use. But this would only be with the agency’s approval. Clearly, the SNUR would not allow, for example, insulation companies in Kansas City to simply use it in any service because the material is still banned in spray-on insulation.
The US may allow its use in comparison with other countries (e.g., UK, Australia, and other EU countries) that have completely banned the material. But it is largely regulated. The recent SNUR is an additional protective barrier for future restrictions for manufacturing companies that work with the product. The EPA further explains that the rule doesn’t intend to increase imports or encourage the use of asbestos. It simply allows them to implement a strict review process.
The SNUR covers the following products, among others:
- Filler for acetylene cylinders
- Extruded sealant tape and other tapes
- Reinforced plastics
Since it is still a proposal, the EPA opened the SNUR to public comments. Most were against the move because it may open the door to more companies using it.
Why Asbestos was Banned
Most products today no longer contain asbestos. The ones made with the mineral have labels stating that consumers could inhale asbestos from it. There are still restrictions in using asbestos because of its health risks to individuals and its impact on the environment.
It was in the late 1800s when companies mined and commercially used asbestos in North America. Many industries, such as the building and construction industry, the shipbuilding industry, and the automotive industry, used it.
The material was helpful in strengthening cement and plastics. The industry also found that asbestos was particularly useful in insulation, fireproofing, and sound absorption. The mineral also helped in insulating hot water pipes, boilers, and steam pipes.
But the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned any company from using asbestos in gas fireplaces, wallboard patching compounds, and electric hair dryers to avoid its release into the environment.
The EPA issued its final rule in 1989, banning most products with asbestos. But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned the ruling while maintaining a heavy regulation on products containing asbestos.
Today, the EPA requires insulation products to have no more than one percent of asbestos.
At A+ Insulation, we abide by the EPA standards to ensure your safety and comfort. Our team of qualified and certified insulation technicians will add the right insulation in the right places for your superior protection.
Our experienced insulation professionals do diligent and efficient work, ensuring we meet state and local building mandates. From your attic to the walls, let us handle all of your insulation needs. Contact us today for more information.