Why is U.S. Still Importing Asbestos?

Friday, April 05, 2013

Despite the link between cancer and asbestos exposure, the United States continues to import the toxic mineral into the country each year.


About 2.3 million pounds of asbestos was shipped to the U.S. last year, all of it from Brazil, the third largest producer of the mineral after Russia and China.


The dangers posed by asbestos have caused more than 50 countries to ban the substance, which is used in building materials, insulation, automobile brakes and other products.


But the U.S. government has not prohibited asbestos, preferring instead to regulate its use by businesses.


Linda Reinstein, who lost her husband to mesothelioma, a form of cancer tied to asbestos exposure, told The Center for Public Integrity that she’s “appalled and disgusted that the United States still allows the importation of asbestos to meet so-called manufacturing needs.”


“We’ve known for decades that safer substitutes exist,” added Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. “We’re facing a public health crisis where more than 30 Americans die every day from preventable, asbestos-caused diseases.”


So who’s using asbestos in the U.S.?


The chlorine-alkali industry, which makes chlorine and sodium hydroxide, use up about 57% of the mineral, while 41% goes into roofing products, according to the federal government.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S. Asbestos Imports Condemned By Health Experts, Activists (by Jim Morris, Center for Public Integrity)

Statement by the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin on National Asbestos Awareness Week 2013 (Surgeon General)

Asbestos (U.S. Geological Survey) (pdf)

Corporate Executives Sentenced to Prison for Asbestos Deaths: Could it Happen in U.S.? (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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