The news that imports of the toxic mineral asbestos are on the rise in the U.S. is prompting outrage from a mesothelioma patient advocacy group.
According to new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) numbers, the amount of asbestos being imported into the U.S. from other counties increased in the past year from 1,040 metric tons to 1,100 metric tons. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is highly carcinogenic and has used in thousands of products. Because it has not been mined in the U.S. since 2002, the vast majority (92%) of the asbestos used in the U.S. is imported from Canada. The rest comes from Zimbabwe and elsewhere.
Asbestos is known to cause malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and a host of other serious health problems and has prompted more occupation-related lawsuits that any other product in U.S. history. The latest USGS report shows that, after a sharp decline in asbestos imports between 2008 and 2009, imports rose in 2010 and again in 2011. The current 1,100 metric ton level represents a 34% rise in imports in the last 3 years, which the USGS attributes to increased ‘manufacturing needs’.
There are two main types of mesothelioma – pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. Both are caused by asbestos. Conventional treatment for mesothelioma is limited and is comprised of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Currently, there are a variety of new mesothelioma treatments being tested. Victims are hopeful that one or more of these treatments may provide a curative modality.
The head of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, an advocacy and awareness organization for families and patients with mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases, says she was “appalled and shocked” by news of the increase in asbestos imports.
“On behalf of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), I am calling on Congress and the President to immediately prohibit the importation of raw asbestos and asbestos-containing products from crossing our borders to protect public health,” said Linda Reinstein in a statement posted on the ADAO website. “I have lost my husband, Alan, to mesothelioma, a disease caused from asbestos exposure. Nothing can bring him or the hundreds of thousands of other victims back to life, but we can begin by aggressively preventing exposure thus eliminating deadly diseases.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that some 3,000 different commercial products – ranging from insulation to building products and engine parts – contain some level of asbestos. Despite EPA and OSHA regulations for asbestos handling, approximately 2,500 people die of mesothelioma in the U.S. each year.
U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries 2012.
Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) Issues Statement of 2012 U.S. Geological Survey Report”, January 25, 2012, ADAO website.
Environmental Protection Agency, Asbestos Fact Sheet, Accessed January 30, 2012.