New data from the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission shows the amount of raw asbestos imported to the U.S. nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016. Even though mining the dangerous material is illegal in the U.S, it still imported asbestos in large amounts.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies six types of asbestos minerals: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. Although all commercial forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, there are differences in their chemical compositions.
Asbestos once filled countless U.S. homes and businesses in the form of insulation and heat-protecting materials. Throughout the construction boom following WWII, asbestos was a key element in thousands of industrial and household products, including drywall, wiring, glues, and adhesives, ceiling tiles, cement, and shingles.
Some of these asbestos products remain in old structures and are usually harmless. This is as long as no one disturbs the substance. Usually, their job exposed workers to the harmful natural mineral. But others, including their family members, also faced secondary exposures at home. Plus, there are environmental exposures in communities that mined or processed asbestos.
Occupations that are at high risk for exposure in older buildings include firefighters, contractors, demolition workers, electricians, and plumbers.
In a study by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Environmental Working Group, the organizations estimated that the U.S. imported 705 metric tons of asbestos last year compared to 343 in 2015.
Researchers note the increase in imported asbestos could be from the newly organized Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must review the top 10 dangerous chemicals, which asbestos is now on the list. Now under the new legislation, the EPA could perform an extensive review of asbestos. Constituents hope this leads to a comprehensive ban. However, this would take years to complete.
Russia Still Leads Imported Asbestos
According to a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey, global production of asbestos is an estimated 2 million metric tons each year. Last year, almost 95% of imported asbestos came from Brazil. Russia provided the other 5%. China is second in the world with 400,000 metric tons. Of the top five producers of asbestos, only Brazil and Kazakhstan saw a reduction in mine production from 2015-16. Around the world, asbestos-cement products remained the leading market for the toxic mineral, especially in developing countries.
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