Asbestos Usage and Bans in the United States
Asbestos is a mineral used in various products throughout most of the 20th century to make them fire- and heat-resistant and improve their durability. It’s also a substance that causes diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
The American public and lawmakers have known about the health effects of asbestos for years. So when did they stop using asbestos in the U.S.? The answer may surprise you.
Is Asbestos Banned in the U.S.?
There is no general asbestos ban in the U.S. While certain products are banned, some uses of asbestos remain legal. It’s also still found in some talc products, including cosmetics.
The U.S. no longer produces any asbestos and only imports it for limited uses. But concerns about asbestos exposure remain in many at-risk occupations and industries.
Is Asbestos Banned Internationally?
Globally, 69 countries have banned asbestos, including Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, the United Kingdom and the entire European Union (EU). Among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which promotes sustainable market-based economies, only the U.S. and Mexico have not banned asbestos.
History of Asbestos Regulation
While asbestos isn’t banned in the U.S., it is strictly regulated. The U.S. has stopped using asbestos in several products and industries due to decades of legislation:
- 1970: Congress passes the Clean Air Act, which classifies asbestos as hazardous and gives the EPA the power to regulate it.
- 1972: The Consumer Product Safety Act bans asbestos in wall patching compounds and artificial fireplace embers.
- 1973: Clarence Borel wins one of the first successful mesothelioma lawsuits. The EPA also bans spray-on asbestos products, which were used for fireproofing and insulation.
- 1975: The EPA bans other specific types of asbestos pipe insulation and block insulation.
- 1976: The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) gives the EPA more authority to regulate the packaging, handling, storing and disposing of asbestos. An amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act allows a ban on asbestos-containing filters in pharmaceuticals.
- 1986: The Asbestos Information Act requires asbestos companies to report information to the EPA to be made public. The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires the EPA to create standards for asbestos in schools.
- 1989: The EPA attempts to ban all uses of asbestos in the U.S., but the complete ban is overturned in 1991. A ban on five products (flooring felt, rollboard, commercial paper, corrugated paper and specialty paper) and new uses of asbestos is allowed to remain in place.
- 2016: The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act expands the EPA’s powers regarding asbestos to help prevent challenges to a complete asbestos ban.
- 2019: The EPA’s Restrictions on Discontinued Uses of Asbestos Rule requires that certain uses of asbestos not already covered under the TSCA be subject to review.
- 2022: The EPA proposes a federal ban on chrysotile asbestos.
- 2023: The EPA releases data on asbestos use in the chloralkali industry for public comment.
While the EPA has not yet finalized its Proposed Ban of Ongoing Uses of Asbestos, advocates are hopeful it will happen soon.
When Did They Stop Using Asbestos?
In the U.S., all successful asbestos bans have been specific to certain products, not industries. As the dangers of asbestos became clear, the EPA did ask may industries to stop using these products, but stores were allowed to continue selling existing stock. That makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact year when asbestos use stopped. Increased regulation, consumer education and asbestos lawsuits also contributed to the declining use of asbestos, especially in these industries:
- Construction: Bans on asbestos in sprays, wall-patching compound and flooring felt affected the construction industry. Plenty of building materials continued to contain asbestos until the early 1980s, when regulations and growing awareness led the industry to phase them out.
- Military: All five military branches used asbestos products until at least the late 1970s. Even as asbestos was phased out and safety procedures were introduced, exposure to existing asbestos materials in the military continued.
- Shipyard workers: Shipyard workers see high rates of mesothelioma and other diseases due to the extensive use of asbestos insulation on ships. While the bans on asbestos insulation would have affected this industry, it likely wasn’t phased out until the late 1970s.
When Was Asbestos Banned in Homes?
There is no direct ban on the use of asbestos in homes. There are asbestos bans in certain construction materials, including spray-on applications like popcorn ceilings. There are also strict regulations on how asbestos must be handled, packaged and disposed of.
Homes built before 1980 are most likely to have used asbestos building materials, including floor tiles, insulation and drywall. Even some homes built into the mid-1980s may contain asbestos, as these products remained on shelves. If you think your home contains asbestos, it’s best to call a professional for testing.
What Is Being Done to Ban Asbestos Today?
The EPA has tried to ban asbestos, but companies fought back in court and won. Now, the EPA plans to propose another ban, and several interest groups and politicians are working to ban asbestos for good.
The proposed bill is known as the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act—named after a man who passed away from mesothelioma in 2006. It would permanently ban the import and use of all types of asbestos. If Congress writes this bill into law, it would also be more likely to hold up in court than an EPA ban.
Impact of Asbestos Exposure
Exposure to asbestos is a major public health issue—and an incredibly personal one for the thousands of people diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases each year. No amount of asbestos is safe to inhale, yet unfortunately, the U.S. has yet to completely stop using asbestos.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should know that asbestos exposure is almost always the cause. At Early, Lucarelli, Sweeney and Meisenkothen, we specialize in getting mesothelioma victims the compensation they deserve. If you have more questions or want a free case evaluation, fill out our online form today.
When Were EPA Actions Taken to Regulate Asbestos Use?
In the 1970s, the EPA banned asbestos insulation and spray-on products and created strict rules for how businesses must handle, package, store and dispose of asbestos. While a total ban on asbestos in 1989 ultimately failed, the EPA continues its efforts today.
What Year Did They Stop Using Asbestos?
The EPA attempted to ban all uses of asbestos in the United States in 1989. This was overturned in 1991. The use of asbestos has stopped in various products over the last several decades, but it is still imported for limited uses.
Is Asbestos Completely Banned in the United States?
No, there is no complete asbestos ban in the U.S. Certain industries, particularly the chloralkali industry, which makes chlorine, continue to import and use asbestos.
When Did They Stop Using Asbestos in Popcorn Ceilings?
The EPA banned spray-on asbestos products in 1973, which included popcorn ceilings. However, the ban didn’t apply to existing inventory, which means asbestos could appear in popcorn ceilings that were installed as late as the 1990s. If you suspect asbestos in your home, it’s best to call a professional for testing.
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