To date, more than 50 countries around the world have issued a total ban on asbestos. Now, Ukraine has been added to that lengthening list, its Ministry of Health recently confirming that the country’s ban is now in place.
Ukraine sits in a region where asbestos use is abundant. Between 2009 and 2015, the country imported 40,000 tons of the toxic substance.
Nearby Russia and Kazakhstan are the top miners of dangerous asbestos, accounting for about 65 percent of the world’s production.
Many around the world are celebrating the ban. Laurent Vogel, from the European Trade Union Institute (Etui), said the ban is a “victory” for Ukrainian workers since there was a “fierce” pro-asbestos lobby in Kiev that could have made the vote swing in the other direction.
In fact, there was a huge amount of opposition from both domestic and foreign lobbyists in regards to this ban, which also includes chrysotile “white” asbestos, which many proponents still insist is safe for use.
A spokesperson from IPEN – a global network that shares a common commitment to achieve a toxic-free future where chemical production, use and disposal does not harm people and the environment – noted that the Ukraine ban allows them to hold onto the hope that other countries in the region will do the same.
“If Ukraine can ban asbestos, so too can other asbestos-using countries in the region, such as Uzbekistan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,” read a press release from the group.
The ban “is another crack in the wall of denial about the harms …[and] signals to countries frustrated by years of obstruction at Rotterdam COPs [Conference of Parties] that they too should step forward,” added Joe Dingangi, a senior scientific adviser with the organization.
Yes, as Ukraine institutes asbestos ban, Americans lobbying for such a move continue to be frustrated. Even more, with the current administration, they are met with opposition and battled by those who continue to insist that asbestos causes no harm.
While it is one of the first ten chemicals to face risk evaluation under the new Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, it seems less and less likely that a ban will ever happen.
Of course, scores of individuals who have been affected by the mineral – and their families and loved ones – know the truth. Each year in the U.S., asbestos makes people sick.
About 2,500-3,000 individuals have succumbed to mesothelioma each year for about the last ten years. And while this cancer is much less prevalent than lung or breast cancer, it’s a fierce foe that is hard to treat and almost impossible to beat.
And, in most cases, it could have been avoided.
As the year moves on, there will likely be more discussion about an asbestos ban in the U.S. It is difficult to predict what the outcome might be.