Despite strong scientific and medical evidence endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that asbestos causes cancer, the substance is still legal in over 100 countries.
The UK banned the use of asbestos in 1999 however it may surprise you to learn that it is still legal in the United States, albeit in a restricted way. As a product, asbestos is still widely traded around the globe – in the US asbestos imports for home consumption were approximately 1.6 tons in 2012 (at that time mostly from Brazil) but this fell and levelled off to 340 tons in 2015 and 2016.
A report commissioned in 2014 by WHO estimated that in excess of 2 million tons of asbestos was used around the world each year. By 2015 this had dropped to just over 1 million tons.
At the turn of the millennium the global asbestos trade exceeded 5 million tons, so those representing the victims of asbestos and their families and those campaigning worldwide for a total ban on the substance can see that the tide has definitely turned, but progress has been slow.
There is no safe dose of asbestos and because of this its continued use cannot be justified anywhere. The US uses asbestos in a limited and controlled way, however it has no such control over countries such as Russia, India and Bangladesh whose workers mine and export the substance. I hope it does not take another 100 years for the global trade to shrink to zero.
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