When was asbestos banned?

A surprising fact for many Americans is that unlike other nations around the world, the United States has not yet banned asbestos.  Although the Environmental Protection Agency banned most asbestos-containing products on July 12, 1989, this ruling was overturned in 1991 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Fortunately, this later ruling did not overturn the ban on all asbestos materials. Some of the products that remain banned after this overruling are flooring felt, rollboard, and corrugated commercial, or specialty, paper as well as all “new uses” of asbestos. “New uses” refers to products that were not historically manufactured with this mineral. Nevertheless, a surprising number and range of products may still contain this mineral.

Why Was Asbestos Not Banned?

Efforts to ban asbestos have been met with significant opposition from both government officials and representatives of corporations who fear the effect such a move will have on industry. These opponents of a ban claim that the continued use of asbestos in everyday products such as roofing materials and automotive brakes presents a negligible risk to Americans, even while as many as 10,000 succumb to asbestos-related diseases each year. The following are products that remain legal to use today, despite their asbestos content:
  • Asbestos-cement corrugated sheet
  • Asbestos-cement flat sheet
  • Asbestos clothing
  • Pipeline wrap
  • Roofing felt
  • Vinyl-asbestos floor tile
  • Asbestos-cement shingle
  • Millboard
  • Asbestos-cement pipe
  • Automatic transmission components
  • Clutch facings
  • Friction materials
  • Disc brake pads
  • Drum brake linings
  • Brake blocks
  • Gaskets
  • Non-roofing coatings
  • Roof coatings

Recent Efforts to Ban Asbestos-Containing Materials

Most recently, Senator Patty Murray has led the charge to pass legislation that would ban the importation, manufacture, processing, and distribution of all asbestos-containing products. Her efforts also include pushing for expanded research and treatment of asbestos-related diseases, as well as the launch of a public education campaign to help warn Americans and protect them from the danger of this material. However, so far the Washington State senator and other asbestos critics have not been successful in their attempts to put the United States’ name on the list of over 40 nations that have banned this dangerous material.
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