Asbestos Imports Climbing Since New EPA Legislation
Recent federal import data analyzed by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and Environmental Working Group demonstrates that asbestos imports into the United States soared a whopping 2,000 percent between the months of July and August 2018, with importers prompted by the new EPA legislation that allows for the potential approval of certain uses of the toxic mineral.
According to reports issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce, in August alone, the U.S. imported 272 metric tons of asbestos, compared to 13 metric tons in July.
“The striking increase is a major indicator that industry is not concerned about President Trump and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) taking any steps to ban or even reduce the use and import of asbestos,” stated a spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization that “uses the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.”
Organizations like ADAO and EWG had hoped that asbestos would go away soon. Both groups constantly rally for an all-out ban on the hazardous material.
They were encouraged when, in 2016, an overhauling of the Toxic Substances Control Act named asbestos as one of the first 10 substances to be assessed by the EPA. But then things changed.
The vast majority of the asbestos that comes into the U.S. is used for the chlor-alkali industry, which uses the mineral to make semi-permeable diaphragms for the manufacturing of chlorine and sodium chloride.
It generally purchases the mineral from Brazil, but this year Russia was added to the mix. By August, the industry had spent $1 million on 555 tons of asbestos and will likely import at least another 200 tons by the end of the year, experts point out.
“Lobbyists from the American Chemistry Council, working on behalf of the chlor-alkali industry, are now pushing the Trump administration for an exemption from the new chemical safety law that would allow it to continue to import and use asbestos just as it does today,” the EWG reports.
Sadly, the new legislation does indeed open doors for such exemptions. This is news that’s more than upsetting to those whose families have been affected by asbestos exposure, including the 40,000 Americans that die each year due to diseases related to that exposure.
“It is clear that under the Trump administration, U.S. asbestos imports and use are not decreasing. The science is irrefutable, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure or controlled use. Clearly, the chlor-alkali industry is lobbying for another exemption.” said Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, who lost her husband to mesothelioma cancer.
“It is appalling that unlike more than 60 nations around the world, the U.S. not only fails to ban asbestos, but allows imports to increase,” Reinstein added. “Americans cannot identify or manage the risks of asbestos. The time is now for the EPA to say no to the asbestos industry and finally ban asbestos without exemptions.”