Supposedly Banned, Yet U.S. Asbestos Fiber Consumption is Increasing
The report, issued from the newly published U.S. Geological Mineral Yearbook for 2011, found that 1,180 metric tons of asbestos fiber was imported into the U.S. in 2011, compared to 1,040 metric tons in 2010 – a 13% increase.
Over the years, numerous studies have linked asbestos inhalation with various conditions including cancers such as malignant mesothelioma – a thin-cell wall cancer that can metastasize in the lungs, heart, abdomen and other locations. Plural mesothelioma – in the lungs – is by far the most dominant version due to asbestos inhalation. A Danish study of 122 mesothelioma patients found that 83% had plural mesothelioma. Other studies have estimated plural mesothelioma at around 70%
Because it often goes unnoticed for many years, mesothelioma has a poor survival rate. Diagnosis is often difficult, because it can appear as a respiratory infection or as cardiovascular disease.
Asbestos inhalation and contact has also been linked with ovarian cancer, skin cancer and other forms of cancer.
An estimated 10,000 people die each year from asbestos-related illnesses.
Even if cancer does not result, asbestos inhalation can lead to a steady decline in lung health and capacity. A Brazilian government study of 502 people who worked with asbestos found that asbestos exposure resulted in a greater decline of lung function over a 25-year period. Pulmonary fibrosis is another condition linked to asbestos exposure.
Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization stated her surprise with the increase in importation. “As a Mesothelioma widow and asbestos awareness advocate, I was appalled and shocked,” she said.
“Asbestos remains legal and lethal in the United States, Ms. Reinstein added. “In 1977, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared asbestos a human carcinogen, yet occupational, environmental, and consumer exposure continues throughout the United States.”
There are six types of asbestos: actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and tremolite. They are used variously in building products and other consumer goods, primarily because they are fire resistant, flexible and have low conductivity. Chrysotile is the most used form of asbestos.
While interior walls and flooring are not typically built with asbestos any longer, there is little regulation of asbestos use in building materials. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a ban and phase out ruling in 1989 — but most of it was overturned by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991. The Clean Air Act and parts of the Toxic Substances Control Act maintain some restrictions but these are fairly weak.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report found that 41% of the asbestos imported was used in roofing materials.
The bottom line is that our buildings are full of asbestos. This makes building demolition potentially lethal to onlookers and workers. And those who work with asbestos will be suffering consequences over the coming decades.
This has outraged many, including the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
“On behalf of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), I am calling on Congress and the President to protect public health and immediately prohibit the importation of raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products from crossing our borders,” Ms. Reinstein recently announced.
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