ACC: EPA Proposal Threatens Drinking Water, Supply Chain

April 8, 2022
ACC urges EPA to reconsider proposed guidelines.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) expresses disapproval of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chrysotile Asbestos Risk Management proposal, according to the organization. EPA’s proposed guidelines would eliminate all use of chrysotile asbestos in chlor-alkali manufacturing and cause substantial harm to America’s drinking water supply, and unwarranted alarm for products in the marketplace which are essential to ongoing climate, sustainability and infrastructure projects, says the ACC.

If enacted, EPA’s proposed rule would ban the manufacture of nearly one-third of chlorine and sodium hydroxide chemicals and have significant adverse effects on the supply of the nation’s drinking water, according to the organization. Additionally, says the ACC, EPA’s risk evaluation overestimates potential asbestos exposures, leading to an unjustified risk management proposal.

EPA’s proposal to phase out the use of chrysotile asbestos in chlor-alkali manufacturing could significantly impact public health by reducing the domestic supply of chlorine which is vital to protecting the safety of the nation’s drinking water supply, says the ACC. Approximately 98% of public drinking water treatment facilities use some form of chlorine-based disinfectant, according to the American Water Works Association. The supply chain disruptions experienced by water utilities over the last couple of years have highlighted the vital importance of chlorine to water disinfection.

Chrysolite asbestos is reportedly used by about one-third of U.S. chlor-alkali manufacturing plants to produce chlorine. Chlorine chemistry is essential to 88% of all pharmaceuticals, and 89% of crop protection chemicals, says the ACC. Chlorine is a critical element in the production of products “necessary to achieve our climate and sustainability goals,” according to the organization, including batteries, windmills and solar panels. A phase out of asbestos use by chlor-alkali manufacturers reportedly could limit the availability of chlorine, adversely impact public health and lead to dependence on imports of products made with it.

“As EPA advances to the next phase of its implementation of the 2016 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) amendments, it is critical the agency carefully considers all of the factors that Congress identified as part of risk management,” says Kimberly Wise White, Ph.D., ACC vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs. “These factors include impacts to the national economy and critical infrastructure, benefits to health, and technical and economic feasibility. EPA failed to consider federal handling and worker protection requirements in its assessment and should re-evaluate and reconsider the proposal.”

The use of chrysotile asbestos in chlor-alkali manufacturing is highly regulated by an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard, which requires engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE), access restrictions and medical monitoring. In its 2020 risk evaluation of asbestos, EPA failed to fully consider the OSHA asbestos handling and worker protection protocols, says the ACC. 

ACC says it supports the responsible use of chrysotile asbestos for chlor-alkali manufacturing and has worked with EPA in its evaluation of this condition of use under TSCA. ACC members reportedly have provided significant data and testing information, coordinated facility tours and shared industry’s best practices for the management and use of chrysotile asbestos in chlor-alkali manufacturing.

ACC says it strongly urges EPA to withdraw its chrysotile asbestos risk management proposal and take into consideration its negative impacts to critical water infrastructure, supply chains and achieving climate and sustainability goals. ACC will submit comments to EPA on its proposal including recommendations and alternative approaches the agency should consider.

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