The link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma diagnoses is irrefutable. In response to serious illnesses without a definitive cure combined with lives lost, countries around the world have implemented outright bans on importing and manufacturing the deadly mineral.
While the United States implemented prohibitions on asbestos manufacturing, it continues to import it into the country. While there has been talk of further tightening restrictions towards a ban, nothing formal has been announced, and asbestos continues to cross the country’s border.
In 2020, 300 metric tons of raw chrysotile asbestos entered the country. It represents the second smallest amount in over 50 years but is nowhere near the 803,000 tons that came into the U.S. in 1973. However, the amount nearly doubled 2019’s numbers, not counting smaller amounts that remain unknown in quantity.
The previous year saw the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency release the first part of their Final Risk Evaluation for chrysotile asbestos. The study verified that the fibers present “unreasonable risks to human health.” The goal is to finalize actions by 2022. Meanwhile, imports are breaking records, and mesothelioma and other cancer diagnoses continue.
To date, Congress does not seem to have the appetite for an all-encompassing ban. Even a bill with bipartisan support to ban asbestos last year unraveled over political disputes.
Meanwhile, asbestos importing continues a troubling trend through 2021 and beyond, without a clear end in sight, as will more deadly mesothelioma diagnoses.