Asbestos Imports Doubled in 2016
After many years of decline, the U.S. saw a marked increase in asbestos imports during the last calendar year, with 705 metric tons of raw asbestos imported during 2016 as compared to 343 metric tons the year prior.
These figures were released by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the largest independent nonprofit asbestos victims’ advocacy group in the United States, along with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a grassroots advocacy organization that encourages healthier lives in a healthier environment.
The data comes from the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce and notes that the imports hail from Brazil and Russia.
The material likely went to the only industry in the U.S. that still uses the hazardous material – the chloralkali industry, which is responsible for technology used to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxid (lye/caustic soda), used in a variety of applications.
They use the asbestos to produce semipermeable diaphragms.
It seems the industry rushed to purchase the raw material after the passage of the Lautenberg Chemical Act for the 21st Century in the latter part of the year.
They were likely preparing for regulations that may have eventually halted the import of asbestos though, now, with a new administration in place that does not seem to be concerned about the toxin, it is likely that the industry may no longer need to worry about access to asbestos.
Nonetheless, the industry is currently pushing for an exemption from the new chemical safety law that would allow it to continue to import and use asbestos with no changes in its current procedures.
The chloralkali industry insists that usage of the material, known to prompt diseases like mesothelioma, harms no one.
“Opponents of an asbestos ban have long argued that asbestos use is shrinking in the United States, but now we know just the opposite is true,” said Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. “Each year, asbestos-caused diseases claim the lives of 15,000 Americans. It is shocking that unlike more than 60 nations around the world, the U.S. has not only failed to ban asbestos, but its use is increasing dramatically. The EPA needs to ban asbestos with no exceptions. There is no safe or controlled use of asbestos in mining or manufacturing.”
“The chloralkali industry’s insistence on the continued use of deadly asbestos is reprehensible,” said EWG President Ken Cook.
“Meanwhile, we shut our eyes to the communities in Brazil and other asbestos-producing nations, where miners and their families are exposed to this killer.”