December 5, 2017
Earlier this year, it was reported in the 2016 Minerals Yearbook that asbestos consumption in the United States has nearly doubled in the last year; from 343 tons in 2015, to 704 tons in 2016. Naturally this report caused concern, especially among anti-asbestos advocates who had seen a steady decline of asbestos imports to the United States since the late 1980s/early 1990 when asbestos regulations began to take place.
Since 2002, it has been illegal to mine asbestos in the United States. This has caused the chlor-alkali industry – the only industry to use asbestos in the United States – to rely solely on imports for the business to thrive. Most of the United States asbestos imports come from Brazil and Russia, but a landmark Supreme Court decision in Brazil late last month will heavily impact the future of asbestos imports in the U.S.
In a 7 to 2 vote, Brazil, one of the world’s largest suppliers of chrysotile asbestos, banned the use, production, and distribution of asbestos. With Brazil not responsible anymore for asbestos imports to the United States, many are wondering if Russia will now be the sole producer. In Russia, asbestos is not as heavily regulated as it is in the United States, and its strong reliance on mining for economic purposes means heavy exposure limits are not enforced. Russia has the largest asbestos reserves in the world, mining millions of tons of asbestos each year, and importing over half of it.
With asbestos banned in many countries throughout the world, and with only a few countries left that are still able to distribute and produce the carcinogen, it could become increasingly more difficult for industries, like the chlor-alkali in the United States to import asbestos, and asbestos alternatives could be forced upon the industry much sooner than realized.
Decades ago, asbestos was a popular building material used anywhere from construction sites, to homes, to the military. It’s insulating, fire resistant, and sound proofing qualities made asbestos a versatile mineral that could be added to anything from cement mix, to attic insulation, to hair dryers, and cigarette filters. Asbestos fibers are small, needle-sharp, and can become airborne when disturbed. The fibers are then inhaled and become embedded in soft tissue and surrounding organs. Over time the tissue becomes inflamed, scarring occurs (fibrosis), and cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer develop. The latency period between the time of asbestos exposure and illness can be anywhere from 15 to 50 years, so many people who were exposed decades ago are now becoming ill.
For decades asbestos manufacturers and companies that used asbestos products knew of the dangers of asbestos but chose to not inform those exposed; risking the lives of their workers and their families. If you or a loved one is suffering from lung cancer or mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation for your asbestos injuries. Contact the attorneys at Goldberg, Persky & White for a free consultation. For over 30 years our attorneys have helped thousands of local workers and their families receive the compensation they deserve from industries that placed profits above workers’ health.
ADAO, “Brazil Bans Asbestos – Making it Harder for the USA and Chlor-Alkali Industry Importers and Users (December 1, 2017). [Link]
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