On April 4, 2023, Olin Corporation — one of the few manufacturers still using and importing asbestos in the United States — wrote a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voicing its support for the agency’s proposed ban of chrysotile asbestos in the chlorine manufacturing industry.
In the letter, Olin said the company would support the EPA taking action to ban chrysotile asbestos — the only form of asbestos still imported into the United States — if given two years to replace the substance with an alternative and an additional five years to phase out the use of already installed asbestos products.
If the plan is adopted, no asbestos-based diaphragms would be present in chloralkali facilities at the end of the seven-year period, and no asbestos imports into the U.S. would be needed after today.
“We hope this step from Olin Corp. encourages Congress to move forward expeditiously with the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2023, which was recently reintroduced and would ban the imports and use of all six types of asbestos in the United States.”
– Linda Reinstein, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) President & CEO
Previously, Olin had told regulators that there were no alternatives to asbestos. However, this recent letter highlights Olin’s newfound commitment to protecting thousands of people from asbestos exposure, which can cause serious illnesses like mesothelioma.
Other chlorine companies have pushed back against the EPA’s asbestos ban, claiming that the proposed timeline is unrealistic. The American Chemical Council, which lobbies for chlorine companies, has argued that a minimum of 15 years would be needed to fully transition away from using asbestos.
“We hope the remaining two corporations who continue to import and use asbestos for asbestos diaphragms, OxyChem and Westlake, will follow Olin’s leadership and make the same public commitment to transition away from asbestos technology and immediately stop importing raw asbestos into the United States,” said ADAO president Linda Reinstein, who lost her husband Alan to mesothelioma, in a statement applauding Olin’s letter.
Asbestos in the Chlorine Industry
In 1989, the EPA attempted to ban asbestos in the United States. Yet within two years, the ban was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The court claimed the EPA failed to prove an asbestos ban would be the “least burdensome alternative” to protect people from asbestos exposure.
“To this day, the U.S. continues to let chlorine companies import hundreds of tons [of asbestos] annually.”
In 2022, ProPublica found that chlorine companies had spent years lobbying against an asbestos ban. Additional investigations also uncovered unsafe working conditions in multiple locations operated by these companies.
A facility run by OxyChem in New York, now closed, was described as “fraught with danger” and “like something that maybe would happen in the 1940s or the 1950s,” according to ProPublica.
OxyChem is one of three chlorine manufacturers currently using asbestos diaphragms in their chlor-alkali facilities, in addition to Westlake and Olin. The diaphragms filter chemicals during the manufacturing process and prevent chemicals from combusting.
Olin’s change to support the EPA action and take steps to stop using asbestos is proof that great progress is being made to protect innocent people from devastating illnesses caused by asbestos exposure. However, there is still work to be done.
To do your part, you can send a letter to Congress, urging them to ban asbestos and support the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now (ARBAN) Act.
Simmons Hanly Conroy: Fighting for Those Exposed to Asbestos
As a leading national mesothelioma law firm, Simmons Hanly Conroy continues to advocate for those impacted by asbestos exposure.
We have seen firsthand the devastation that asbestos-related diseases have caused families across the country, and we are driven to fight for justice on their behalf.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we may be able to help you access mesothelioma compensation for treatment and more.
Since 1999, our mesothelioma lawyers have helped secure billions in settlements and verdicts for families affected by asbestos exposure.
Call (800) 326-8900 to learn about your options during a free legal consultation.