The EPA has enacted new rules that it says will address harmful materials and their use in the U.S. The Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) will require notice to the EPA before harmful substances such as asbestos are used. However, the new rules do not prevent asbestos or any other harmful substances from being used. Critics of the SNURs argue that this loophole will allow asbestos-containing products to be used with little interference from the government. As a result, critics say the U.S. has seen a substantial increase in asbestos imports.
In fact, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Commodity Summaries, asbestos imports reached 750 metric tons in 2018—more than double the amount imported in 2017. Brazil and Russia are listed as the main sources of asbestos imports in the U.S., with most shipments coming from Brazil.
The chloralkali industry, which uses asbestos to manufacture semipermeable diaphragms, accounted for 100% of asbestos mineral consumption in 2018. However, in addition to asbestos minerals, the report says in 2018 an unknown quantity of asbestos was imported within manufactured products including asbestos-containing brake materials, tile, rubber sheets for gaskets, wallpaper and potentially asbestos-cement pipe and knitted fabrics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that during 1999–2015, 45,221 malignant mesothelioma deaths were reported in the U.S., increasing from 2,479 in 1999 to 2,597 in 2015. Mesothelioma deaths increased for persons aged ≥85 years, for both sexes, persons of white, black, and Asian or Pacific Islander race, and all ethnic groups.
Continuing occurrence of malignant mesothelioma deaths in persons aged <55 years suggests ongoing inhalation exposure to asbestos fibers. Around 3,000 new mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
What You Can Do
To help stop asbestos imports in the U.S., contact your congressperson. Visit the United States House of Representatives Directory for details here.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away—even if you do not have symptoms. Even small amounts of asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma and it could take 20 to 50 years from first exposure to diagnosis of mesothelioma.
There is no cure for mesothelioma. However, early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes, so see your doctor to assess your risk today.
“Key Statistics About Malignant Mesothelioma.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, Inc., 2019. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.
“Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality – United States, 1999-2015.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 03 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.
“Mineral Commodity Summaries.” U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Department of the Interior, February 2019. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.
“Mineral Commodity Summaries.” U.S. Geological Survey. U.S. Department of the Interior, January 2018. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.
“Reviewing New Chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).” United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). United States Government, 01 Aug. 2018. Web. 22 Jun. 2019.