Asbestos is Big Business Abroad

Today, the United States processes more than 2,200 metric tons of deadly asbestos materials each year. In our opinion, that’s 2,200 metric tons too many, even though it is a significant drop compared to our usage 50 years ago. Although our country’s widespread usage of asbestos has diminished significantly over the past three decades, the toxic product is still actively mined, sold and used in construction projects worldwide, particularly in Asia. According to data compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, China and India, the two most populous countries on the planet, represented the two largest consumers of asbestos. Other major consumers include Russia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

“When asbestos was banned in industrialized countries and [producers] started to lose money, they came to the developing countries to recover their investments,” Dr. Guadalupe Aguilar Madrid told the Center for Public Integrity and the BBC.

Each year, one million metric tons of asbestos is mined in Russia, which exports most of this mineral and keeps only a quarter of this production within its own boundaries. On the other hand, China uses a staggering 626,000 metric tons of the toxic substance annually. But only half of that is mined domestically, and the country relies on other asbestos producing countries, such as Canada, Russia and Brazil, to make up the difference. India uses 300,000 metric tons annually, but produces very little domestically, relying almost exclusively on imports.

Given all that is known about the dangers associated with asbestos use, the numbers are staggering. If you were to look at production per capita, you’d see that Russia, a country of about 140 million residents, mines a whopping 15 pounds of asbestos per person, per year!

Research has shown that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure which avoids any risk of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. Although it is comforting to know that production and consumption of asbestos in the United States is declining, the substance still poses a risk to Americans at home and abroad, a risk that can only be mitigated with a full ban on asbestos here.

We should encourage Congress to ban asbestos in the U.S., to set the right example for other leading world powers. It’s time to do the right thing. Join our fight. Help us ban asbestos now.