Asbestos and Consumer Products | Region 10 | US EPA

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Asbestos and Consumer Products

EPA has continuing concerns about asbestos in consumer products. Agency scientists are evaluating a wide range of garden vermiculite products to determine if they contain levels of asbestos that pose risks to public health. Once the results of those evaluations are completed in a matter of weeks, EPA will make these results available to the public and take appropriate regulatory action to address any significant risks that may be identified. Actions could range from the dissemination of consumer information regarding these products to potential regulatory controls.

What should I do if I have plants in my house in potting soil?

Based upon our current information, we do not believe there are risks from potting soil currently in use. Consumers may not have vermiculite in your potting soil at all, but if you do, it is very unlikely that the small amount of asbestos which could be present in the vermiculite used to formulate the potting mixture could present any significant risk to consumers. Based on the information we have concerning the very small amount of asbestos in currently available commercial vermiculite soil amendment products, risks from consumer use of such products would be minimal. However, the Agency is currently sampling a variety of existing products in the marketplace to determine if regulatory controls are necessary.

What should I do if I have a bag of potting soil/vermiculite in my house?

Based on EPA’s current information about the potentially very low levels of asbestos in commercially available vermiculite soil amendment products, consumer use of such products poses minimal risk. Although the risks from use of such products are extremely small, if the product contains any asbestos at all, there could be some fiber release and some exposure from the use of the product. If a consumer wishes to avoid any potential exposure whatsoever to asbestos fibers, the consumer can choose to dispose of the product, and current regulations allow disposal of these products as ordinary waste.

Based on the current information, EPA believes vermiculite soil amendment products present minimal risk to the consumer. However, the Agency will continue to test products in the marketplace to determine if further regulatory controls are warranted.

Is EPA banning/recommending discontinued use of Zonolite chemical packaging material?

EPA Region 10 in Seattle conducted limited testing on Zonolite chemical packaging material. This limited testing by Region 10 found asbestos in this specific product and found that asbestos fibers were released during a testing scenario which was designed to simulate actual use of the product. Due to this initial testing, Region 10 recommended that consumers avoid use of the specific Zonolite chemical packaging material. EPA is currently evaluating a number of vermiculite products for asbestos content, potential asbestos fiber release during product use, and level of risk.

Last week, EPA essentially said the vermiculite you can buy at any store is dangerous, that you shouldn’t use it; you should wash your clothes immediately if you do. Why don’t you just ban the products?

Given the information that is currently available, commercial vermiculite soil amendment products present minimal risks to consumers. If the product evaluation work being conducted by the Agency reveals any significant risk concern, EPA will issue appropriate public guidance and pursue the necessary regulatory controls.

In the preliminary testing from EPA’s Region 10 office, the initial information indicated high levels of asbestos in a specific chemical packaging product. The studies on additional common garden products are still underway, and presently we have no reason to believe that other products pose unacceptable risks. However, EPA is continuing it’s investigation, and will keep the public informed to determine if regulatory controls or other measures are necessary.

What is EPA doing about asbestos?

For many years EPA has advised homeowners that asbestos products in their homes (floor tiles, ceiling tiles, insulation, etc) will not present significant risks if properly maintained. EPA will continue to evaluate potential risks from asbestos products, and if significant risks are seen, the Agency will use its regulatory authorities appropriately.

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