Across the globe, some 50 countries have banned asbestos, that toxic mineral that has been used for decades in everything from insulation to motor vehicle brakes to building materials.
The U.S., however, is not among them.
Our Boston mesothelioma lawyers know we aren’t the only ones who find this deeply troubling. As you probably are aware, asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of organ tissue linings (usually the lungs) that lies dormant for many years until advancing aggressively in the final stages.
While other countries have been shutting the door on asbestos in new products, the U.S. continues to import millions of pounds of this material. The U.S. Geological Survey reported in 2012 that the nation shipped in some 1,060 metric tons of asbestos – all from Brazil. The agency says that barring a ban, consumption of asbestos in the U.S. is likely to remain somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 tons.
What’s especially incensing about this asbestos use is that it’s not even necessary to the manufacture of the products for which it’s used. Safer alternatives for every use have been known for decades, according to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
And yet, some 30 Americans die DAILY from asbestos-related diseases, which are entirely preventable.
National Asbestos Awareness Week was earlier this month, and the president of the ADAO – who also lost her own husband to mesothelioma – held a press conference in Washington state to highlight how U.S. investment companies continue to have a large stake in the asbestos mines and production in Brazil, which is why imports have not tapered off completely. Not only are we running the risk of our own workers becoming infected, but the risk may be especially high in nations like Brazil, where regulatory authority may be far more lax than what we have in place here.
Annually, nearly 110,000 people across the globe die of diseases related to asbestos exposure, according to the World Health Organization.
An investigation conducted three years ago by the BBC and the Center for Public Integrity found that the global asbestos industry remains powerful, particularly throughout the developing world. With the aid of lobbyists and scientists, the industry continues to market the material quite aggressively in the developing world.
The world’s biggest producer of asbestos is Russia, followed by China and then Brazil.
In the U.S., peak production of asbestos was recorded in 1973, when we were processing more than 800,000 metric tons. Although we’ve seen a significant drop-off since then, there haven’t been any long-term, successful efforts at a ban. The federal Environmental Protection Agency tried back in the late 1980s, but the industry was able to ultimately successfully challenge that measure in court.
The industry that now consumes the most asbestos is a specialty chemical industry that manufactures sodium hydroxide and chlorine. This industry accounted for nearly 60 percent of all asbestos consumption in the U.S. last year. The other approximately 40 percent went to roofing materials, while the rest was listed as having “unknown applications.”
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
U.S. asbestos imports condemned by health experts, activists, April 4, 2013, By Jim Morris, The Center for Public Integrity
More Blog Entries:
Asbestos Defendants Attempt to Discredit Mesothelioma Doctors, April 15, 2013, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog