Raw Asbestos Imports Continue to Rise in the United States
Tracking by the US International Trade Commission shows an increase in asbestos imports in the first three months of 2022 with no signs of slowing. The reports states that raw asbestos imports reached 114 metric tons, exceeding the 100 metric tons imported during the entirety of 2021 by more than double.
Industries often use the most common form of asbestos, raw chrysotile asbestos. Raw chrysotile asbestos accounts for 90 to 95 percent of asbestos use in the United States. However, because it is utilized in many industries and products, chrysotile asbestos accounts for the majority of cases of mesothelioma and asbestos diseases. Learn more about the industries exposed to asbestos and the future of this mineral in the United States.
Why is the United States Still Importing Asbestos?
According to the Mineral Commodity Summaries Report from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the use of asbestos has dropped throughout the decades, after an all-time high in 1973 with 803,000 tons of asbestos. Currently, the Chlor-alkali industry is the only remaining domestic consumer of mineralized asbestos. The Chlor-alkali process refers to the production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide. The chlorine industry uses semipermeable asbestos diaphragms which separate the chlorine and sodium hydroxide. Many industries utilize asbestos in their products and tools including:
- Cleaning Products
- Water Treatment
These asbestos imports are primarily coming from China and Brazil, the largest sources of chrysotile asbestos in the world. Despite a Federal Supreme Court ruling banning asbestos use within the country, the mineral continues to enter the US through ports in Texas, Louisiana, California, and Virginia.
What’s Being Done to Manage Asbestos?
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed to completely ban asbestos once and for all. If passed, this ruling would eliminate the use of asbestos in products such as chlorine bleach, brake pads, and thousands of other asbestos products. However, organizations, like the Chlorine Institute, fight this intervention to protect the use of asbestos in its Chlor-alkali operations. Unfortunately, asbestos products harm more than just the users; the workers in industries, like that of Chlor-alkali, are constantly at risk for asbestos-related diseases.
Exposure to asbestos through the chloralkali industry and others can lead to deadly conditions such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Workers can install safety measures in their work-life by wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). However, PPE can only do so much to prevent illness and save the lives of workers.