A Review of the EPA’s Significant New Use Rule for Asbestos

Posted on Behalf of  Melinda Donnell

Posted on behalf of Melinda Hoang.

On June 1, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) that allows the manufacture of new asbestos-containing products to be petitioned and approved by the federal government on a case-by-case basis (EPA 2018). The EPA proposes that this review process will ensure that the manufacture, import, or processing for the currently unregulated new uses identified in the SNUR are prohibited unless reviewed by EPA. In addition, this process will allow EPA to take action, including prohibiting or limiting the intended use of asbestos.

This news came after the EPA reviewed asbestos as one of the first batch of 10 chemicals under the 2016 amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which requires the Agency to continually review hundreds of chemicals in lieu of placing new restrictions on their use or removing them completely from the market. The EPA believes that the SNUR will close a loophole on asbestos. EPA officials have noted that it is highly unlikely that any new uses of asbestos would be approved (Vox.com 2018). According to Nancy Beck, a deputy associate administrator in the EPA’s chemical safety office, “if [they] find risk, [they] can prevent it” with the SNUR (Vox.com 2018).

The proposed SNUR applies to any manufacturing or processing for certain uses of asbestos that the EPA identifies as no longer ongoing (Asbestos; Significant New Use Rule 2018). The EPA defines asbestos as the “asbestiform varieties of six fiber types – chrysotile (serpentine), crocidolite (riebeckite), amosite (cummingtonite-grunerite), anthophyllite, tremolite or actinolite”. The EPA found no information indicating that the following uses are ongoing and are therefore subject to this proposed SNUR: adhesives, sealants, roof and non-roof coatings, arc chutes, beater-add gaskets, extruded sealant tape and other tape, filler for acetylene cylinders, high-grade electrical paper, millboard, missile liner, pipeline wrap, reinforced plastics, roofing felt, separators in fuel cells and batteries, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, and any other building products excluding cement. The SNUR does not apply to persons who manufacture or process asbestos that may contain asbestos as an impurity.

To determine whether the use of asbestos is a significant new use, the EPA must consider all of the following factors:

· The projected volume of manufacturing and processing of asbestos;
· The extent to which a use changes the type or form of exposure to humans or the environment;
· The extent to which a use increases the magnitude and duration of exposure of humans or the environment to asbestos;
· The reasonably anticipated manner and methods of manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, and disposal of a chemical substance.

Companies and manufacturers subject to the SNUR will be required to notify EPA at least 90 days prior to commencing any manufacturing (including importing) or processing of asbestos for a significant new use. Manufacturing and processing for the significant new use of asbestos may not commence until the EPA has reviewed the notice, made an appropriate determination on the notice, and taken such actions as are required in association with the determination. Without this proposed rule, the importing or processing of asbestos for the significant new uses proposed in this rule would have been able to begin at any time, without prior notice to the Agency.

The Agency believes that the SNUR is necessary to ensure that manufacturing or processing for the significant new use cannot proceed until the EPA determines that:

1. The significant new use presents an unreasonable risk under the conditions of use (including an unreasonable risk to a potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation);

2. The available information is insufficient to permit a reasoned evaluation of the health and environmental effects of the significant new use;

3. In the absence of sufficient information, the manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, use, or disposal of the substance, or any combination of such activities, may present an unreasonable risk (including susceptible subpopulations);

4. There is substantial production and sufficient potential for environmental release or human exposure.

Our scientists at Cardno ChemRisk have extensive experience in evaluating the hazards associated with asbestos and assessing human exposure to asbestos. If you would like to learn more about our capabilities, or if you have any questions about this topic, please contact Melinda Hoang.