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EPA Bans Asbestos

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday banned the last form of asbestos still imported into the US. Exposure to the mineral—a fibrous silicate found naturally in rocks—is linked to lung and other forms of cancer, killing an estimated 40,000 Americans each year.

Asbestos is fire-resistant and durable and has long been used in building materials like insulation. It can be challenging for the body to clear; when inhaled, it can cling to the lining of the lungs, causing a form of cancer known as mesothelioma. While asbestos manufacturing has declined since the 1970s, one of its six forms—chrysotile asbestos—is still imported primarily from Brazil and Russia (watch video). It is still in use today to make car brakes and gaskets, and one-third of US chlorine plants use it for manufacturing.

Chrysotile asbestos is the first chemical substance banned since a 2016 law expanding the EPA's powers to regulate toxic substances. See sources of asbestos exposure in the US here and a map of US asbestos mines here.

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