Will EPA’s asbestos ban decrease cancer rates?

By Ellie Borst | 04/01/2024 01:32 PM EDT

Legacy contamination, a protracted phase-out timeline, long disease latency periods and likely legal battles cloud the impacts of the historic rule.

A sign warns of asbestos.

A sign warns of asbestos. EPA recently issued a rule requiring manufacturers to phase out chrysotile asbestos. Jenny Evans/Getty Images

The Biden administration hailed its historic and long-awaited ban on asbestos as a significant move toward ending diseases, but advocates and health providers said those assertions overlook the rule’s limitations and create a “false sense of safety.”

“Undoubtedly, [EPA’s rule] will prevent disease,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, an epidemiologist and pediatrician who directs Boston College’s Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good, in an interview.

But while applauding the “very, very important” rule, Landrigan, who has been involved in asbestos research since the 1980s, questioned the “awfully long” phase-out timeline.


EPA’s final rule will require manufacturers to stop production of the six remaining uses of the most common type of asbestos, chrysotile, over incremental deadlines over 12 years. That timeline is 10 years longer than what EPA originally proposed and three years shy of what the chemical industry requested.