While the U.S. has not produced asbestos in nearly 20 years, the country continues to import it. Doing so ensures that some American families will continue to suffer from the fatal effects caused by this mineral, namely via the incurable cancer known as mesothelioma.
More than 50 countries ban asbestos. The list includes Argentina, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Australia and Japan. The U.S. is not on that list. In 2020, asbestos imports to the U.S. nearly doubled compared with the previous year. And these factors ensure that America’s estimated 2,500 annual deaths and just as many new cases attributed to mesothelioma will continue.
Imported 300 tons
Asbestos is used in products such as roofing files, pipes, wall panels, insulation, cement and cloth. In the 1970s, America woke up in recognizing the dangers of asbestos. We learned that inhaling or ingesting the dust and fibers of asbestos lead to mesothelioma, a cancer that takes decades to develop and affects the lungs, stomach and heart.
Despite such medical findings, America’s and the world’s appetite for asbestos continue. For example, U.S. imports of asbestos rose to 300 tons last year, nearly double the 172-ton amount imported in 2019, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021 annual report.
Asbestos consumption peaked in the U.S. in 1973 as a record 803,000 tons were used. And those numbers shrank in the past few decades. In the five years from 2016 to 2020, annual asbestos consumption was less than 800 tons in the U.S. Such numbers display the growing public and manufacturer awareness about the dangers of asbestos.
It is crucial to continue to warn the world population about the dangers of asbestos. We want to see fewer cases among workers more prone to obtaining this disease. That list includes construction workers, shipbuilders, firefighters, machine operators and agriculture workers. They and their families will thank you.