No Such Thing as “Safer” Types of Asbestos
There are six different types of asbestos that occur naturally throughout the world, each having characteristics that make it useful in certain compounds. Some argue that some of these types are “safer,” than others to work with and handle, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure for any type of asbestos fiber, including chrysotile – the world’s most imported and consumed form of asbestos.
Chrysotile asbestos is the most common form of asbestos and is distinctive because of its curly fibers. The curly fibers are not as easy to inhale and because of this, some think that chrysotile is “safer” than other types of asbestos. This is not the case because the fibers can still become lodged in a person’s lung or stomach. Additionally, because its use is the most wide-spread, more people suffer from asbestos related diseases from contact with chrysotile than any other form of asbestos. Chrysotile is more flexible than other types of asbestos and can be woven into fabrics. It was also used in brake linings, floor and ceiling tiles, and home products like hair dryers and toasters. Today it is still used in products like pipes, sheets, and shingles and mined in Canada, Russia, and Italy.
The six different types of asbestos are all known to be carcinogenic; however, chrysotile asbestos was recently not included in the 2017 UN Rotterdam Convention List of Hazardous Substance. This act sparked outrage among the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization community, who has been fighting for the complete ban for close to 15 years.
Countries such as Russia mine and consume over a million metric tons of asbestos per year, making it the number one asbestos producer in the world. Propaganda paints chrysotile asbestos as the “only safe kind” of asbestos and Russia has even organized a “Chrysotile Appreciation Day,” where asbestos workers take a day to proclaim its safety. Asbestos consumption in the United States has been decreasing slowly and steadily since late the 1980s/early 1990s. According to data from the 2015 Minerals Yearbook, 343 tons (t) of unmanufactured asbestos was consumed in the United States in 2015; down 16% from 2014 when 406t was imported.
Progress in the fight to ban asbestos in the United States has been like a pendulum, as pieces of legislation promoting progress end up on the back burner when conflicting legislation is proposed. In 2016 The Alan Resinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act was introduced to the Senate and The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was signed into law in hopes to place stronger regulations on toxic substances; giving anti-asbestos advocates hope for the ban on the toxic substance. Unfortunately, a new piece of legislation called the Regulatory Accountability Act that has already passed in the House will prolong the process significantly, thwarting any current and future attempts to ban asbestos.
Once known as the “miracle mineral,” asbestos was a popular building material throughout the mid-20thcentury. Its high tensile strength, fire proofing qualities, and the fact that it could be woven into fabrics made it versatile and was used in many aspects of the home as well as the mining, construction, and shipbuilding industry. Its mass abundance also made it a cost-effective choice.
Unfortunately, companies knew for decades that asbestos exposure can lead to life-threatening health issues such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, and did not warn or protect their workers and their families. At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., we’ve been specializing in asbestos-related diseases since the 1970s, when these cases were first coming to trial. We’ve helped thousands of local workers fight back against the companies who put profits above their health to receive the compensation that they deserve.
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