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Asbestos Use in Developing Countries

Asbestos being loaded
Asbestos Mining

While asbestos has been banned or strictly regulated in many developed nations due to its known health hazards, its use continues unabated in numerous developing countries. In these regions, where regulations may be lax and awareness of asbestos-related health risks limited, the persistence of asbestos poses a significant threat to public health and environmental well-being. The urgency of this issue cannot be overstated. Asbestos Removals Marlborough sheds light on the complex socioeconomic factors driving the continued use of asbestos in developing countries and advocates for immediate international cooperation to address the global asbestos crisis.

Despite being recognised as a carcinogen by leading health organisations, asbestos remains a popular construction material in many developing countries. Its affordability, durability, and fire-resistant properties make it appealing for roofing, insulation, and other building applications. However, the widespread use of asbestos comes at a steep cost to human health, as exposure to its fibres can lead to debilitating respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Asbestos -  The Challenges & Barriers

Economic, social, and political factors fuel asbestos's persistence in developing countries. For instance, limited access to alternative building materials, lack of awareness about the health risks of asbestos, and weak regulatory enforcement are significant challenges. Additionally, vested interests within industries that profit from asbestos production and trade often hinder efforts to implement safer alternatives and stricter regulations. These are just a few of the many challenges and barriers that need to be overcome, underscoring the need for international cooperation to address the global asbestos crisis.

Socioeconomic Impact of Asbestos

The consequences of asbestos use extend beyond public health to encompass broader socioeconomic implications. For instance, in communities where asbestos is mined or manufactured, residents often suffer from environmental pollution and occupational health hazards, leading to increased poverty and inequality. Moreover, the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases means that affected individuals may manifest symptoms years or even decades after exposure, imposing a heavy burden on healthcare systems and social support networks. These are just a few examples of the socioeconomic impact of asbestos use, highlighting the urgent need for international cooperation to address this issue.

The Urgency of International Cooperation

Addressing the global asbestos crisis requires not just individual efforts, but coordinated action at the international level. Efforts to phase out asbestos must be accompanied by measures to support affected communities, including capacity building, technology transfer, and financial assistance for asbestos remediation and healthcare. International organisations, governments, civil society groups, and industry stakeholders must collaborate, recognising their shared responsibility, to develop and implement comprehensive strategies for asbestos management, including safer alternatives, worker protection measures, and public awareness campaigns.

What Countries Still Produce and Use Asbestos?

As of 2024, several countries continue to use and develop asbestos despite its known health risks. Some of the biggest countries in terms of asbestos production and consumption include:

Russia: Russia is one of the world's largest producers and exporters of asbestos. The country has extensive asbestos deposits, particularly in the Ural Mountains region. Despite international concerns about asbestos-related health hazards, Russia has been a significant advocate for the continued use of asbestos and has resisted global efforts to ban its production and export.

Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan is known for its substantial reserves of chrysotile asbestos, one of the most commonly used forms of asbestos. The country has a history of asbestos mining and production, with exports primarily going to Asian and Eastern European countries. Despite growing awareness of the health risks associated with asbestos, Kazakhstan continues to extract and export asbestos for use in various industries.

China: China is another significant producer and consumer of asbestos, primarily used in construction materials such as roofing, insulation, and cement. The country has a large asbestos mining industry and continues to rely on asbestos in various sectors of its economy. However, China has also faced increasing scrutiny and pressure to address asbestos-related health risks and improve workplace safety standards.

Brazil: Brazil has significant asbestos deposits, particularly in Goiás. The country has been a major producer and exporter of asbestos, primarily chrysotile, commonly used in construction materials. While Brazil has implemented some regulations to control asbestos use and protect workers' health, the asbestos industry remains influential, and asbestos-related diseases continue to pose a significant public health challenge.

India: India is one of the largest consumers of asbestos, with a significant demand for asbestos-containing products in construction, roofing, and insulation. The country also has a growing asbestos mining industry, particularly in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Despite concerns raised by health experts and advocacy groups, asbestos use in India remains widespread, driven by factors such as cost-effectiveness and availability.

These countries continue to use and develop asbestos despite growing recognition of its health hazards and the implementation of bans or strict regulations in many other parts of the world. The persistence of asbestos use in these countries underscores the need for continued international efforts to raise awareness, strengthen regulations, and promote safer alternatives to asbestos.

Global Bans on Asbestos

Several countries worldwide have banned asbestos due to its known health risks. The bans have been implemented at different times, with some countries acting earlier than others. Here are some examples of countries that have banned asbestos and the timing of their bans:

United Kingdom: The United Kingdom was one of the first countries to enact a ban on asbestos. Blue and brown asbestos was banned in 1985, followed by a ban on white asbestos in 1999. The ban applies to importing, selling, and using asbestos and asbestos-containing products.

Australia: Australia implemented a phased ban on asbestos, starting with a ban on blue asbestos in 1967. This was followed by bans on brown asbestos in 1985 and white asbestos in 2003. The prohibitions apply to manufacturing, importing, selling, and using asbestos and asbestos-containing materials.

European Union: The European Union (EU) has banned all forms of asbestos since 2005. The ban applies to the manufacturing, importing, and using asbestos and asbestos-containing products in EU member states.

Canada: Canada banned manufacturing, importing, and using asbestos and asbestos-containing products in 2018. The ban was a significant policy shift, considering Canada's history as one of the world's largest asbestos producers.

New Zealand: In 2016, New Zealand banned the importation of raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The ban was part of the government's efforts to protect public health and safety from the risks associated with asbestos exposure.

United States: While the United States has not implemented a complete ban on asbestos, it has imposed restrictions on its use and importation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned most asbestos-containing products in 1989, but some exemptions still exist.

These are just a few examples of countries that have banned asbestos to protect public health and safety. Many other countries have also implemented bans or restrictions on using asbestos, reflecting a global recognition of the risks associated with asbestos exposure.

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