US bans asbestos imports for chlor-alkali

  • : Chemicals, Petrochemicals
  • 24/03/18

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule prohibiting uses of chrysotile asbestos, including an immediate ban on the import of asbestos for producing chlor-alkali.

The ban, announced on Monday, is the first rule finalized under 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA).

Chrysotile asbestos was the only form of asbestos still allowed to be used and imported into the US. Asbestos diaphragms are used to make chlorine and sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda. The chemicals, known collectively as chlor-alkali, are used to disinfect drinking and waste water, and to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Two-thirds of US produced chlorine is made without using asbestos and there are eight chlor-alkali plants in the US that use asbestos diaphragms in production, according to the EPA.

Six of these eight plants are required to transition to either non-asbestos diaphragms or membrane technology within five years, with the remaining two to follow.

The EPA aims to ensure the transition will not disrupt the supply of chlorine needed for water purification. Companies with multiple facilities have five years to convert their first facility, eight to convert the second and 12 years to change technologies at their third.

The ruling also bans most sheet gaskets that contain asbestos as well as uses in oilfield and automotive brake blocks and linings.

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