The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019 is soon going to be debated by lawmakers. But the Chlor-Alkali industry is causing complexities. It wants an exception to this ban so that it can continue using asbestos in the production of chlorine. And the Chlor-Alkali industry is a huge one, employing directly 20,000 people and even more through their products.
If this exception was accepted there would be pretty much no longer any reason to pass the ban. All asbestos that is imported to the United States is used by the Chlor-Alkali industry. Well pretty much. The asbestos that is already in the product, such as brake pads, is of course not used by the Chlor-Alkali industry but all raw asbestos is. In 2018, 750 tons of raw asbestos was imported. And yet the only use for it was chlorine making and it was all used. How does the chlorine industry manage to use all that asbestos? There are three processes for making asbestos. One includes mercury, one includes asbestos, and the other includes nothing bad. Even though often chlorine is made with scary processes, it is very vital. Mike Walls, who is the ACC vice president for regulatory affairs, said that without chlorine there would be a huge danger to public health because chlorine makes many people have access to safe drinking water that otherwise would not. Walls said that one third of the chlorine made in the United States is made with asbestos diaphragms. He also said that inside the chlorine plants human exposure to asbestos is prevented by equipment, training, regulations, and a specific way of disposing of the diaphragms that is mandatory. Throughout the US there are multiple disposal plants for asbestos. Throughout these plants there is a wide variety of how asbestos is disposed of. But in all of them they are not recycled but become part of a solid waste landfill. In the US there are currently 11 Chlor-Alkali plants that still make chlorine using asbestos. Walls said the use of asbestos in the Chlor-Alkali industry will continue to be carefully regulated to ensure that it doesn’t pose an unreasonable risk to public health. Even though Walls says that much care is taken place such that public health is not hurt through the use of asbestos is chlorine making, it isn’t the only way. Many in the industry have already switched to asbestos free chlorine producing. In the European Union only one in 75 Chlor-Alkali plants use asbestos diaphragm. It even seems better not to use asbestos diaphragms when making chlorine because some in the industry have found an alternative that is cheaper and has a longer lifetime because it is reusable. So they save a whole lot of money in chlorine costs. But Walls continued to argue for the exception. He said it is true that others in the industry have found a way that is better in all aspects to make chlorine but changing a process in a specific factory would cost a lot of money. So it would be cheaper not to change the process. I, though, would like to argue that in the long run it would be cheaper to change the process. Especially in lives. But the Chlor-Alkali industry maybe shouldn’t be too worried. In the past similar legislations have been presented to Congress but they have not been able to advance past it. Currently the EPA is conducting an asbestos risk assessment. In the world many countries have banned asbestos yet only two of them are among the ten most populous countries in the world. The complete assessment is due in December. Walls said that without the benefit of the assessment no ban should be put in place. After all, what if the ban didn’t include the most dangerous parts? In the last couple decades the use of asbestos has gone down significantly. But the rate of disease has remained constant. Why is this? It’s all because of legacy asbestos – the asbestos sitting in houses and buildings from long ago, when everyone thought it was fine and therefore everyone used it. So since that is the main source of disease, why not get all of it away? Call us today at (312) 586-8713 to get your asbestos removed.
6800 S Jeffery Ave # 2A, Chicago, IL 60649, (312) 586-8713