The Baffling Lack of an Outright Asbestos Ban

In 2016, a new version of the U.S. leading toxics law put one particular chemical at the forefront.


Fast forward five years later, and anything resembling a complete ban remains non-existent with a chemicals policy considered archaic, even with a new presidential administration. One of the milestones in the baffling, if not stubborn, refusal to outright ban asbestos is the  Substances Control Act of 1976 that required an immediate overhaul.

A handful of companies in the asbestos business remain. Westlake Chemical stands out as a company that stopped the purchases of asbestos many years ago. In fact, 90 percent of their production incorporates an alternative way to manufacture electrolytic cells that are asbestos-free.

Yet, they remain the exception, not the rule.

Asbestos manufacturing continues

Leading the charge in the continuation of asbestos manufacturing can be traced back to the industry itself. Leaders claim that asbestos – particularly involving chlor-alkali manufacturing – is “very well controlled.” They assert that companies are going the extra mile to limit exposure to their employees.

In 2020, raw chrysotile asbestos imported into the country came in at approximately 300 metric tons, an increase of more than a third from the previous year. Talc, a mineral mined near asbestos and often contaminated with the mineral, continues to exist in countless consumer products ranging from cosmetics to paint.

Talc is also the subject of 20,000-plus pending lawsuits. Legal experts predict that these asbestos-related legal actions will dominate courtrooms long into the future.

Meanwhile, politicians in Washington DC do little if anything to stop its use. The old saying of “where there is a will, there is a way” would apply if only those in powerful positions had the will.