Despite that fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and many other agencies have declared that even a small amount of asbestos exposure is dangerous, the country’s chlor-alkali industry continues to push for exemptions that will allow them to carry on with the importation and use of asbestos.
According to a recent press release by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), members of that industry still use chrysotile asbestos-containing semipermeable diaphragms at their plants.
As a matter of fact, the EPA notes that three companies in particular – which own a total of 15 chlor-alkali plants – continue the usage of the hazardous material.
These include Olin Corporation, Axiall Corporation, and Occidental Chemical.
“The chlor-alkali industry is working overtime to secure another exemption to allow the continued importation and use of asbestos. In January 2017, the EPA met with twelve American Chemistry Council (ACC) and chlor-alkali industry representatives,” said ADAO president and co-founder, Linda Reinstein. “It is incredulous that the chlor-alkali industry continues to peddle their ‘safe use’ propaganda to the EPA, the public, and their shareholders.”
“Hundreds of organizations have worked for years to reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which failed to ban asbestos or regulate thousands of toxic chemicals,” Reinstein continues in her press release statement. “ADAO holds the EPA responsible for using the weight of evidence to evaluate and finally ban asbestos–without an exemption for the chlor-alkali industry. Asbestos continues to take more than 15,000 American lives each year and hundreds of thousands around the world. Enough is enough.”
The chlor-alkali process refers to the technology used to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide (lye/caustic soda), which are commodity chemicals required by many different industries, including food, steel and aluminum, textiles, soap and cleaning products production, and in water treatment.
Discussion about the chlor-alkali industry arose after Reinstein and others reviewed the EPA’s recent Scope of the Risk Evaluation for Asbestos document.
The dissertation was released as per the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act statutory deadline for submitting such a document in regards to asbestos risk in the U.S.
“The document’s focus on de minimis exposure is a non-starter,” said Reinstein, who doesn’t believe the document tells the whole story.
She notes that ADAO has grave concerns about the paper and are disappointed that it doesn’t do the job in getting the word out about continuing asbestos hazards.
In the meantime, those working for Olin, Axiall, or Occidental may be risking exposure on a daily basis if they work where asbestos materials are still used.