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Imports of asbestos into the United States have increased more than 34 percent since 2010, despite the fact that the mineral is a known carcinogen, according to numbers compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Based on data collected from January 2011 to July 2011, the United States was estimated to collect more than 1,100 tons of asbestos during the calendar year. Data for the entire year has not yet been compiled by the USGS. The 1,100 tons is an increase of 869 tons imported into the United States in 2009 and 820 tons imported in 2010.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen, but United States manufacturers continue to use the deadly mineral in more than 3,000 products, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Manufacturers use asbestos in commercial products including paper, brake linings, floor tiles, insulation and roofing materials.
Asbestos exposure is an occupational and environmental health hazard of epidemic proportions. More than 10,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. An estimated 3,000 people are diagnosed annually with mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma develops most often in the membrane surrounding the lungs called the pleura. It can also develop around the abdomen and the heart.
Asbestos has not been mined in the United States since 2002. But foreign countries satiate demand by America’s industrial giants. Most asbestos was shipped from the Canadian mines. Other sources include Brazil and Zimbabwe.
Although the report states that the use of asbestos in 2011 and in the preceding 5 years is the lowest it has been since 1909, it is still way too much. The USGS report also estimates that the United States’ future asbestos consumption will hover around the 1,000-ton level.
According to the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, a California-based nonprofit, the asbestos industry has argued that imports of asbestos are decreasing. The USGS figures contradict that claim.
ADAO president and founder, Linda Reinstein, calls on Congress and President Barack Obama to prohibit the importation of raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products to protect public health. Reinstein, who lost her husband to mesothelioma, said we are unable to bring back the countless victims to asbestos exposure, but we can prevent exposure by banning asbestos for good.
Baron & Budd, a law firm founded to protect the rights of asbestos exposure victims, supports Reinstein and the ADAO. Our politicians should not wait any longer to ban asbestos. It’s harmed too many people and promises to harm many more if we allow asbestos to cross our borders.