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Friday, November 20, 2009

Asbestos Exposure Continues Needlessly

Despite all the knowledge of the hazards of asbestos fiber in the workplace, asbestos is still  mined throughout the world and continues to be used in the United States.  For decades asbestos has been recognized as the cause for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos is not banned in the US.

The US Geological Survey reports that asbestos production in 2008 (metric tons) continues at alarming rates around the world:
1. Russia.................1,017,000
2. China.....................238,000
3. Brazil.....................225,000
4. Kazakhstaan...........230,000
5. Canada...................180,000

The US continues to import 1,460 metric tons of asbestos at a raw product cost of $1,090,000. It exports and reports  many asbestos and asbestos based products including: cement products, friction products, gaskets, paper and millboard, all valued at $33,200,000.

"U.S. consumption of asbestos was 1,460 t in 2008, a 16% decrease from 1,730 t in 2007. Coating and compounds accounted for 36% of U.S. consumption; roofing products, 34%; and other, 30%. Most of the asbestos reported under “coating and compounds” probably was used in roofing products. Consequently, roofing applications, which comprised bituminous roof coatings and roof sealants, accounted for 65% to 70% of the total U.S. asbestos end-use market."

While U.S. imports and sales continues to decline, the legacy of asbestos disease lives on, continuing to generate unnecessary disease, suffering  and death. An efficient and expeditious compensation system for those workers who have been exposed and suffer disease has become increasing complicated and difficult to navigate. Another recent report indicates that the workers' compensation system continues to shift responsibility to the social security system as the path for benefits becomes more litigious and difficult to navigate. A good first step to solve the problem would be for Congress to ban asbestos entirely in the U.S.