Asbestos Laws & Bans Around The World
Asbestos fibers came into commercial use worldwide in the early 1800s due to their tensile strength and ability to withstand heat, fire, and acid. Asbestos fibers are used in numerous commercial and consumer products, roofing and brake pads, to industrial equipment insulation. Despite warnings of adverse health effects, it was not until the late 1970s that governments began to regulate the use of asbestos. By the mid-1980s, severe and fatal asbestos-related diseases claimed the lives of so many people that many countries banned the use of asbestos. Asbestos-related disease victims die painful, lingering deaths. These deaths are almost entirely preventable by eliminating asbestos use.
Worldwide Production and Use of Asbestos
Over 90 percent of the asbestos used worldwide today is used to manufacture asbestos-cement sheets and pipes. The problem with using asbestos-containing materials in construction is that asbestos fibers are released into the air, and dust is released as these materials weather, erode, break, or are cut by saws and other power tools.
Despite the known adverse health effects of asbestos, several countries still use and produce asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Over 70 percent of the world’s production of asbestos is used today in Asia and Eastern Europe. China is the largest consumer of asbestos today, followed by India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Indonesia, Iran, Vietnam, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
Russia is the top producer of asbestos worldwide, supplying 60 percent of the asbestos used. China, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, and Colombia are also large producers of asbestos. Together they produce roughly 2 million tons of asbestos annually.
Bans on Asbestos Use Worldwide
Approximately 52 countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, Turkey, and the European Union countries, have banned the use of asbestos since 1983. The U.S. is one of the few major industrialized nations without an asbestos ban in place.
Asbestos Regulation in the U.S.
The Clean Air Act of 1970 classified asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant.The EPA was given the power to regulate asbestos’ use and disposal. The passage of this act banned spray-applied asbestos products.
The Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976 provided the EPA the authority to place restrictions on specific chemicals such as asbestos.
NIOSH announced in 1980 that all levels of asbestos exposure demonstrated asbestos-related disease and there is no safe level of exposure.
In 1986, the EPA was required to establish the standards for inspection and removal of asbestos in school buildings. This resulted in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.
The EPA planned to impose a ban on the manufacturing, importation, processing, and sales of all asbestos-containing products in 1989.
The EPA ban on asbestos in 1989 was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 18, 1991. The court claimed the EPA failed to demonstrate that a ban was the “least burdensome alternative” to regulating asbestos. The court stated that the ban could only be applied to asbestos products that were not already being manufactured, processed, or imported as of July 12, 1989. The EPA determined that six products are banned in the U.S., including spray-applied asbestos, flooring felt, roll board, commercial paper, corrugated paper, and specialty paper. All other uses are legal.
In 2016, the EPA added asbestos to the top 10 hazardous chemicals for priority action under the authority of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.
In 2018, the EPA announced a Significant New Use Rule for asbestos that requires that manufacturers notify the EPA prior to chemical substances being used in new ways that might create concerns.
Public health advocates still support a full ban on asbestos, but no legislation to ban asbestos in the U.S. has come forth.
Worldwide Regulation of Asbestos Use
In 2013, the World Health Organization presented a global action plan for 2013 to 2020, which described a set of policies and actions to help the organization’s 190 nations and member states prevent and control non-communicable diseases, including those caused by asbestos.
WHO aims to eliminate asbestos-related diseases by:
- Ending the worldwide use of all types of asbestos.
- Helping countries replace asbestos materials with safer substitutes.
- Improving the early diagnosis, treatment. and rehabilitation services for asbestos-related conditions.
- Creating registries of people who have been exposed to asbestos and offer medical surveillance.
Mining, manufacturing, and consumer products firms hid the adverse health effects of exposure to asbestos fibers from the public.
You and your family have a right to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering due to exposure to asbestos. Contact GPW Law today for a free consultation.