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EPA’s Significant New Use Rules Cause Spike in U.S. Asbestos Imports

Many Americans believe that asbestos was banned decades ago. The reality is, while asbestos no longer mined in the U.S., it is still legal to import this deadly mineral. And thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Use Rules (SNURs), critics say imports are on the rise.

Enacted to address harmful materials and their use in the U.S., says the EPA, the SNURs require notice to the agency before harmful substances such as asbestos are used. However, the new rules do not prevent asbestos or any other harmful substances from being used. Critics of the SNURs argue that this loophole will allow asbestos-containing products to be used with little interference from government agencies. As a result, say critics, the U.S. has seen an alarming spike in asbestos imports.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Commodity Summaries, asbestos imports reached 750 metric tons in 2018, which is more than double the amount imported in 2017. Brazil and Russia are listed as the main sources of asbestos imports in the U.S., with most shipments coming from Brazil.

The chloralkali industry, which uses asbestos to manufacture semipermeable diaphragms that prevent chlorine generated at the anode of an electrolytic cell from reacting with sodium hydroxide generated at the cathode, accounted for 100% of asbestos mineral consumption in 2018, based on bill of lading information obtained from a commercial trade database. However, the report goes on to say that in addition to asbestos minerals, in 2018 an unknown quantity of asbestos was imported within manufactured products including asbestos-containing brake materials, rubber sheets for gaskets, tile, wallpaper and potentially asbestos-cement pipe and knitted fabrics.

Mesothelioma Deaths in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that during 1999–2015, more than 45,000 malignant mesothelioma deaths were reported in the U.S., with increases from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015. Around 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the U.S. today.

Mesothelioma deaths increased for persons aged ≥85 years, for both sexes, persons of white, black, and Asian or Pacific Islander race, and all ethnic groups. Continuing occurrence of mesothelioma deaths in persons aged <55 years suggests ongoing inhalation exposure to asbestos fibers.

What You Can Do

To help stop asbestos imports in the U.S., contact your congressperson. Visit the United States House of Representatives Directory for details here.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. Even small amounts of asbestos exposure could lead to mesothelioma. Although there is no cure for the disease, early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes. See your doctor to assess your risk today.



 “Key Statistics About Malignant Mesothelioma.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2019. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.

“Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality – United States, 1999-2015.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 03 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.

“Mineral Commodity Summaries.” U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Department of the Interior, February 2019. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.

“Mineral Commodity Summaries.” U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Department of the Interior, January 2018. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.

“Reviewing New Chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).” United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). United States Government, 01 Aug. 2018. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.