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1991 Overturn of Asbestos Ban

In July of 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created an Asbestos Ban and Phase-out Rule that was intended to ban virtually all manufacture, processing, importation, distribution and use of asbestos in the United States. Unfortunately, in 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the Final Rule on the grounds that the EPA failed to supply sufficient evidence to justify an asbestos ban. The court, however, did uphold a portion of the Final Rule that banned the new manufacture of asbestos containing materials as of 1990.

Asbestos Containing Materials That Remain Banned

In 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of asbestos in wallboard patching compounds, gas fireplaces, and artificial fireplace ash. CPSC also influenced manufacturers of hair dryers to ban the use of asbestos insulation in their products.

Other bans on certain asbestos containing materials remained intact under the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The Clean Air Act bans the use of sprayed-on surfacing applications containing more than 1% of asbestos unless such materials would be encapsulated with a binder that would prevent the asbestos from becoming friable. Friable is defined by the EPA as any material containing asbestos that, when dry, can be “crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure. The CAA also bans any form of wet-applied or pre-formed asbestos pipe, boiler or block insulation.

The Toxic Substances Control Act bans any new use of asbestos as well as any of the following products that may contain asbestos:

  • Corrugated paper
  • Rollboard
  • Commercial paper
  • Specialty paper
  • Flooring felt

Besides those listed above, the EPA does not have any other existing bans and does not track commercial use, distribution or processing of asbestos containing materials.

Federal Regulations Regarding the Ban of Asbestos

The following documents outline the history of the EPA’s ban of asbestos containing materials:

  • Asbestos: Manufacture, Importation, Processing, and Distribution in Commerce Prohibitions; Final Rule (54 FR 29460, July 12, 1989)
  • Asbestos; Manufacture, Importation, Processing and Distribution Prohibitions; Effect of Court Decision; Continuing Restrictions on Certain Asbestos-Containing Products (57 FR 11364, April 2, 1992)
  • Technical Amendment in Response to Court Decision on Asbestos; Manufacture, Importation, Processing and Distribution Prohibitions; Technical Amendment (59 FR 33208, June 28, 1994)
  • EPA Asbestos Materials Ban (ABPO Rule): Clarification (58 FR 58964, May, 1999)