While other countries are working to ban and further limit the use of asbestos, the United States is showing no interest. The Asbestos Disease and Awareness Organization issued a shocking report in collaboration with the Environmental Working Group based on U.S. International Trade Commission and Department of Commerce records.
Between July and August, 2018, importation of raw asbestos rose by more than 2,000 percent. In July, the United States imported 13 metric tons of asbestos. The next month, 272 metric tons of asbestos were imported.
The rise in imports is concerning as asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma and other deadly cancers. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 15,000 people die each year from diseases related to asbestos exposure. Other experts believe the number could be much closer to 40,000.
Rise may be related to proposed new uses for asbestos
Asbestos is only used in the United States by the chlor alkali industry, which uses it in the manufacture of sodium chloride, also known as salt, and chlorine. But that could soon change.
Manufacturing industries may be importing asbestos in anticipation of new rules which would allow for the expanded use of asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) is in its final approval stages. If finalized, this would allow for more than a dozen new uses for asbestos starting in January of 2019. Companies would be able to manufacture as well as import and process asbestos in the United States.