Asbestos imports to the US nearly doubled in 2016, reversing a long-term decline, latest figures have shown.
Data from the Department of Commerce and the US International Trade Commission estimate that 705 metric tonnes of raw asbestos were imported last year, compared to 343 metric tonnes in 2015. The US Geological Survey reported asbestos imports came from Brazil and Russia.
The only remaining user of raw asbestos in the US is the chloralkali industry, which uses it to “manufacture semipermeable asbestos diaphragms.”
Much of the surge in imports in 2016 came in the fourth quarter of the year, following the passage of the revamped Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Lobbyists from the American Chemistry Council, acting at on behalf of the chloralkali industry, are now pushing for an exemption from the new chemical safety law that would allow it to continue to import and use asbestos.
“Opponents of an asbestos ban have long argued that asbestos use is shrinking in the United States, but now we know just the opposite is true,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). “Each year, asbestos-caused diseases claim the lives of 15,000 Americans. It is shocking that unlike more than 60 nations around the world, the US has not only failed to ban asbestos, but its use is increasing dramatically.”
She added: “The EPA needs to ban asbestos with no exceptions. There is no safe or controlled use of asbestos in mining or manufacturing.”
Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said: “The chloralkali industry’s insistence on the continued use of deadly asbestos is reprehensible. Meanwhile, we shut our eyes to the communities in Brazil and other asbestos-producing nations, where miners and their families are exposed to this killer.”