Despite the uproar over asbestos and the serious diseases it causes, Such as Malignant Mesothelioma and Non-Malignant Asbestosis, you’d think that there would be a total ban on asbestos?
According to this EPA clarification statement, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the following product categories are not banned:
- asbestos-cement corrugated sheet
- asbestos-cement flat sheet
- asbestos clothing, pipeline wrap
- roofing felt
- vinyl-asbestos floor tile
- asbestos-cement shingle
- asbestos-cement pipe
- automatic transmission components
- clutch facings
- friction materials
- disc brake pads
- drum brake linings
- brake blocks
- non-roofing coatings
- roof coatings
Furthermore, the Clean Air Act (CAA) still makes certain allowances.
Asbestos has not been mined in the U.S. since 2002, but the fact is that asbestos is being imported into the United States even as we speak – with most of that, a whopping ninety percent, coming through our northern borders from Canada’s massive chrysotile mines. Sure, the volume of imported asbestos has decreased from a peak of 719,000 tons in 1973 to a mere 820 tons in 2010.
In 2009, 2 million tonnes of asbestos were mined worldwide. Russia was the largest producer with about 50% world share followed by China (14%), Brazil (12.5%), Kazakhstan (10.5%) and Canada (9%) which happens to provide nearly 90% of the asbestos imported into the United States.
Asbestos in Russia: Russia, one of many countries in the world that has not banned asbestos, extracts nearly half a million metric tons from the Uralasbest Mine, near the city of Asbest, every year. Asbest is also known as the “Dying City” due to unfortunate levels of asbestos-related diseases. In Russia, sales of asbestos amount to about a million tons of product (per year) and $613 million in profits, many of the sales made inside the country because Russia still uses massive quantities of asbestos in manufacturing roofing materials, brake pads, and insulation, thanks to Russia’s Chief Sanitary Officer (CSO) ruling that it is “safely saleable”. (Russia’s CSO is equivalent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator, Lisa Jackson).
Asbestos in China: China is currently the only country in the world in which mining operations appear to be growing, and they mostly serve that country’s needs. Consumption of asbestos products in China is also a growing industry. Today, virtually all of the asbestos mined in, and imported to, China is of the white, or chrysotile, variety. An estimated 1,000 enterprises employing more than a million people are involved in the production and processing of asbestos, and up to 90 million tons of chrysotile are thought to be lodged beneath the soil in 15 provinces, mostly in the western part of the country. The Aksai Kazakh Autonomous County of Gansu Province alone accounts for half of these reserves and boasts an average annual output of 170,000 tons.
Asbestos in Brazil: Minaçu is the seat of one of the world’s largest chrysotile asbestos mines. The Cana Brava mine, located on the left bank of the Tocantins River, occupies a total area of 45 kmª. Asbestos has made Minaçu one of the richest municipalities in the state of Goiás. The industrial zone has capacity to produce ten percent of all the chrysotile asbestos fiber sold in the world. It is the largest mine in Brazil and the third in the world. There are 11 Brazilian companies that continue to mine asbestos and product asbestos-containing products. The production generates about $1.3 billion annually for the country’s economy. While these companies employ nearly 3,500 people, the asbestos industry says mining the toxic substance creates about 200,000 jobs.
Asbestos in Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan is one of the world’s largest producers of asbestos, mining 230,000 tons of it in 2009. While Kazakhstan exports most of the mineral, it does consume some. Houses, apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, commercial buildings, brakes and other products a manufactured with asbestos products. There is currently no evaluation of diseases caused by asbestos, nor information about their dangers available to the citizens of Kazakhstan.
Asbestos in Canada: Canada remains one the countries which still promotes the use of chrysotile, particularly in poorer nations like India, Pakistan and Vietnam. This is in spite of calls from the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), for chrysotile asbestos to be banned. As recently as June 2011, Canada again decided not to support adding chrysotile asbestos to the list of hazardous substances in the Rotterdam Convention. The Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Que. is one of Canada’s last chrysotile producers. A new plan to enhance the operation at the mine include converting Jeffrey’s open pit into an underground mine, and expanding production more than ten-fold, to 180,000 tonnes annually by 2012.
Asbestos in India: India is a major importer of asbestos. It also produces about 21000 metric tons per year The Indian Government has recently lifted a ban on indigenous chrysotile asbestos mining. This has predictably been an unpopular decision. A program by Australian reporter Matt Peacock which will be screened on ABC TV on November 8, exposes India’s “shocking trade” in asbestos and includes footage showing key industry propagandists defending the country’s growing consumption of carcinogenic chrysotile asbestos. As a result of growing public awareness of the asbestos hazard, asbestos is now a dirty word in Australia. Clearly this is not the case in India. Peacock’s report follows the trail of asbestos dust from India back to Canada, a country which readily supports the deadly asbestos it is not prepared to use at home.
Asbestos: Production, Import/Export, and Disposal
Asbestos: Data in Metric Tons