Awareness about the significant dangers associated with asbestos exposure has spread rapidly across the globe, with many countries acting quickly to take action and keep their citizens safe.
As a result, 55 countries around the world have banned asbestos.
Although several of these nations permit exceptional and limited use of asbestos-containing products, it can be said that they have taken efficient and effective steps toward protecting people from its dangers.
Has the United States Banner Asbestos?
Perhaps surprisingly, the United States is not one of those 55 countries which have placed a ban on asbestos use. In fact, the U.S. is one of just a few developed nations that still permit its use. However, there are highly active organizations such as The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat who advocate for a worldwide ban and all the advantages that come with it.
Here are the nations that have already taken the necessary steps toward ensuring public health and safety by banning asbestos:
Time After Diagnosis Survival Rate
1 Year 92%
3 Year 74%
5 Year 65%
10 Year 39%
While it might seem that the U.S. would be among the first of the countries to place a ban on asbestos, like several other industrialized nations, we have not yet. While Canada has made plans to ban it by 2018, the U.S. has no such plans in place.
Continued Asbestos Use In The U.S. and Abroad
This can be surprising to hear, as a large portion of the population mistakenly believes that asbestos was banned in the U.S. many years ago. What the United States has done is enact a series of regulations to control and manage the import and use of the material. But to many, these regulations are not nearly strict enough.
Some of the regulatory measures implemented in the United States include the following:
- A ban on the manufacturing, importing, processing and distribution of specific asbestos-containing products such as corrugated paper, rollboard/millboard (construction), commercial paper, specialty paper and flooring felt
- A ban on new uses of asbestos, or the use of asbestos in products that have not historically contained the material
- A ban on the use of asbestos in pipe insulation and block insulation on facility components, such as hot water tanks in certain cases (under the Clean Air Act)
- A ban on the spray-applied surfacing of asbestos-containing materials
- A ban on the spray-on application of buildings, pipes and conduits using materials that contain over 1% asbestos (unless specific legal conditions are met)
As you can see, these policies, while helpful, are quite lenient and allow for the significant continued use of asbestos-containing products. In fact, asbestos is present in a number of consumer products available in the U.S., just in quantities that account for less than 1% of the product.
U.S. Products That Still Contain Asbestos
Also, according to the EPA, the following asbestos-containing products are not banned from being manufactured, imported, processed or distributed in the United States:
- Cement corrugated sheet
- Cement flat sheet
- Pipeline wrap
- Roofing felt
- Vinyl floor tile
- Cement shingle
- Cement pipe
- Automatic transmission components
- Clutch Facings
- Friction Materials
- Disk brake pads
- Drum brake linings
- Brake blocks
- Non-roofing coatings
- Roofing coatings
Although it’s good to see the U.S. enforcing regulations, we need to take this further. The work of other nations has demonstrated that it’s possible to ban asbestos with no adverse effects. Although certain countries have witnessed occasional lapses of oversight in enforcing their bans, for the most part the initiatives have been successful and beneficial to the public.
An Asbestos Ban Is Necessary
As new cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses are diagnosed, it becomes all the more evident that an asbestos ban is necessary—any possible benefits of continuing to use and distribute these products is greatly outweighed by the risks.
As we’ve said before, there is no way of knowing how much asbestos exposure it takes to cause cancer. Between exposing consumers to small percentages of asbestos and continuing to run the risk of accidentally exposing people to larger amounts, these lenient regulations are far from sufficient. It is increasingly important to make sure our voices are heard and advocate for an asbestos-free United States.