History of Banned Asbestos Products
Today, the dangers of asbestos exposure are well known. In our homes, we test potentially contaminated building materials before renovations. On the job, workers take a series of precautions (like wearing full body personal protective equipment) to prevent being exposed to the toxin’s airborne fibers. And, if you go to the store, you won’t see products promoting fireproofing asbestos as an ingredient. This leaves many people to wonder: “When was asbestos banned?”
Regrettably, the answer isn’t what you’d expect. Even today, asbestos has never been totally banned in the United States. Starting in the 1970s, several federal agencies attempted to outlaw the use of the carcinogen in manufacturing. Especially, as numbers of workplace-related asbestos cancers increased dramatically.
Since manufacturing use of the mineral has declined, many people think that producing asbestos-containing material (ACM) is illegal. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned specific applications of asbestos (like spray-on surfacing ACMs). Yet, it isn’t against the law to make many types of ACM or import them.
Keep reading for an overview of asbestos bans and regulations followed by which asbestos products have been banned in the U.S.
For years, the government took steps toward limiting exposure to asbestos by limiting legal uses of the mineral. Through several legislative acts, products manufactured with the toxin declined. Meanwhile, however, rates of asbestos cancers were already on the rise.
Below, the timeline lists the major U.S. asbestos lawsuits, bans, and regulations.
- 1971: A jury verdict in Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation sets the precedent for decades of asbestos litigation, personal injury claims, and wrongful death lawsuits in product liability. Clarence Borel was an industrial insulation worker who developed mesothelioma because of workplace exposure.
- 1973: The Fifth Circuit rules in favor of Clarence Borel’s widow, Thelma, after years of appeals. EPA bans spray-on asbestos-containing surfacing materials used for fireproofing and/or insulation.
- 1975: EPA bans certain types of pipe insulation and block insulation for boilers and hot water tanks.
- 1977: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) bans asbestos-containing spackling and tape joint compounds used to repair drywall as well as decorative ashes and embers and artificial logs made with the toxic fiber.
- 1978: EPA bans spray-on asbestos-containing surfacing materials used for decoration (such as asbestos-containing popcorn ceiling paint).
- Early 1980s: Over 20,000 claimants have filed asbestos lawsuits.
- 1982: Johns Manville, an insulation and roofing manufacturer in Colorado, files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy due to the weight of asbestos litigation filed against the company.
- 1989: Six ACMs are banned including corrugated paper, rollboard, commercial paper, specialty paper, flooring felt, and any new uses created after 1989. The ban is reconfirmed in 1993.
- 2019: The EPA’s Restrictions on Discontinued Uses of Asbestos Rule prohibits uses not covered by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) from returning to the market without evaluation.
- 2020: Through the Final Risk Evaluation, the EPA finds “unreasonable risks to human health for ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos.” The agency will suggest methods to reduce the danger to workers and the public.
Remember, the EPA prohibited companies from producing more ACM (like rollboard). Yet, legacy uses were not banned. Legacy uses of asbestos include those already in use; it does not include new uses or imports.
Which Asbestos Products Are Banned?
In the U.S., asbestos products were never totally banned from public use. Consequently, some manufacturers continue to add the mineral fiber to materials for heat resistance. As a result, countless people have been exposed to asbestos at home, work, or in other older buildings.
Today, manufacturing the following asbestos products is prohibited. Yet, you may still come across them in older vehicles, houses, and structures. However, testing samples of material by a certified laboratory is the only way to reveal contamination.
Banned asbestos products:
- Adhesives, sealants, roof and non-roof coatings
- Aftermarket automotive brakes/linings
- Arc chutes
- Artificial logs, ashes, and embers
- Asbestos diaphragms
- Beater-add gaskets
- Cement products
- High-grade electrical paper
- Missile liner
- Pipeline wrap
- Oilfield brake blocks
- Reinforced plastics
- Roofing felt
- Sheet gaskets
- Spackling compounds
- Tape joint compounds
- Vinyl-asbestos floor tile
- Woven products