An Asbestos Ban in Name Only

At first glance, banning asbestos in 2017 seemed to be a decision late in coming. Following Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court verdict, the world’s third-largest source of chrysotile asbestos joined 60 countries in prohibiting the mineral three years ago. The decision to cease mining, processing, distribution, and marketing was celebrated worldwide as another step towards a worldwide ban of the carcinogenic material.

The celebration was short-lived.

A Governor’s Political End-Around

Detractors of the ban still pursued options to export the material, despite chrysotile asbestos being the leading cause of deaths from cancer throughout Brazil. Yet, asbestos exportation is still occurring in Brazil, with thousands of tons going to ports of call worldwide.

Governor Ronaldo Caiado introduced a bill in the Goiás state legislature to “re-approve” mining and exportation. Legislation passed with advocates claiming that no asbestos would be used in Brazil-based products, and countries without bans would be the only destinations.

The country’s Supreme Court is likely to strike down the legislation. However, the damage may be done. Harm outside the country is still harming other nations with citizens continuing to deal with mesothelioma and other types of cancer from asbestos.

Perhaps the most alarming outcome in Brazil is how it is being transported throughout the country.

Years before Brazil’s ban took effect, white asbestos housed in torn packaging and accidents with trucks carrying the carcinogen involved in accidents. Anyone nearby, including pedestrians and first responders called to the site of a crash, may have suffered exposure and run the risk of contracting mesothelioma and other related diseases.

Resuming those operations in any form and for any length of time can be dangerous and deadly beyond one country whose leadership refuses to acknowledge the risk of asbestos exposure.