A Repeat Call for the Banning of Asbestos

Date Published: 
Thu, 07/01/2010

By Linda S. Birnbaum, Jane C. Schroeder, Hugh A. Tilson. Environmental Health Perspectives. July 1, 2010.

This editorial sums up our contemporary knowledge of asbestos: It is incredibly deadly and there is no safe exposure limit. The International Agency for Research on Cancer confirmed the substances carcinogenic qualities in 1977 (which most experts had long acknowledged). In 2006, the World Health Organization announced that asbestos causes close to fifty percent of worldwide occupational cancer deaths. 50 countries have banned asbestos, although the United States is not among them.  Today, it is most commonly used in the developing world.

There are two other articles relating to an asbestos ban in this edition of the journal.  "A Worn-Out Welcome: Renewed Call for a Global Ban on Asbestos," provides more background, including sections on worthwhile alternatives and one on "Asbestos in the United States."  The United States, Canada, China and Russia are the only advanced industrial nations that have not yet banned the substance. Relatedly, Russia and Canada are among world's top five asbestos exporters.

"The Case for a Global Ban on Asbestos" clarifies the scintific community's consensus tha there is no safe exposure limit to asbestos.  Occupational "exposures to asbestos, even at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit, will cause five deaths from lung cancer and two deaths from asbestosis in every 1,000 workers exposed for a working lifetime."