Most countries in the world either have a complete ban on asbestos mining and manufacturing or severely regulate its use. This is because asbestos is a proven carcinogen that, when inhaled, causes mesothelioma and lung cancer.
The United States prohibits mining asbestos. However, there is no complete ban on its use in some manufacturing industries, particularly the chlor-alkali industry. This industry is responsible for making chlorine, ammonia and other chemicals for wide distribution. The chlor-alkali industry is the reason behind the 705 metric tons of raw asbestos imported to the U.S. in 2016. However, one of the main exporters of asbestos has recently put a comprehensive ban on mining and manufacturing the dangerous substance.
Brazil Supreme Court issues complete ban
The U.S. receives 95 percent of its raw asbestos from Brazil. On November 29, the country’s highest court banned asbestos entirely. Brazil is certainly not alone in this prohibition. Nearly 100 industrialized nations now ban asbestos or are actively phasing out the dangerous mineral fiber. However, Brazil is the most populous country in the world to completely ban its use in any capacity.
Will asbestos ever be banned completely?
Of the 10 most populous countries, only Japan and Brazil have comprehensive bans. However, asbestos mining is severely limited in all but a handful of countries.
It remains to be seen how this will affect the chlor-alkali industry. It is expected that there will be an uptick in asbestos importation from Russia, one of the few remaining asbestos producers in the world. It is also possible that the reduced availability of asbestos will finally lead to a reduced use of the mineral in the U.S. While remote, it is a possibility the 10,000 people who are yearly diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases can hope for.