Taiwan EPA to Phase Out Asbestos to Reduce Mesothelioma | Surviving Mesothelioma

Taiwan EPA to Phase Out Asbestos to Reduce Mesothelioma and Other Diseases

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After decades of asbestos related illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths from mesothelioma, an official with Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says plans are in the works to ban the substance by the year 2020.

Asbestos was widely used for more than 50 years as an inexpensive and superior insulator and building material additive. It is resistant to heat and flame, resists corrosion, and is made of rock-like fibers that add strength to products like brake pads and concrete. But those same fibers can become deadly when lodged in the lungs. Industrial workers who have inadvertently disturbed and then inhaled the substance have contracted serious illnesses ranging from lung scarring to lung cancer, autoimmune disorders, and malignant mesothelioma.

Although all members of the European Union have already banned chrysotile asbestos (the most common type) because of its association with mesothelioma, asbestosis and other diseases, the U.S. has resisted and companies that manufacture asbestos for industry have fought hard against it. The U.S. EPA did manage to ban the substance in 1989, but the ban was overturned two years later when a company called ‘Corrosion Proof Fittings’ successfully argued that the EPA’s classification of asbestos as hazardous was unfounded. Although the substance was not banned, both the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have instituted guidelines for anyone working with or around asbestos.

Now, Taiwan’s EPA’s director of the Department of Environmental Sanitation and Toxic Substance Management, Lin Chien-hui, says the EPA will phase out asbestos in two stages, beginning in 2015. According to Chien-hui, as of July 1, 2015, asbestos will no longer be allowed in sealants and sealing materials. As of July 1, 2020, asbestos will also be banned from construction materials, such as floor and ceiling tiles, wall board, and concrete.

The World Health Organization estimates that one in every three deaths from occupational cancer is caused by asbestos. Asbestos related diseases kill an estimated 10,000 people in the U.S., and more than 107,000 worldwide, every year. In the U.S., 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma annually. The question must be asked – if Taiwan can ban asbestos, a known human carcinogen, than why can’t the U.S.?

Despite any asbestos ban, the number of mesothelioma cases will continue for years to come due to its long latency period. The time from asbestos exposure to the onset of mesothelioma can be decades. Such a latency period would make it that much more timely to phase in a ban now.

Sources:

Asbestos: elimination of asbestos-related diseases, July 2010. World Health Organization Fact Sheet.
Asbestos Ban and Phase Out, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed August 15, 2010.
Mesothelioma-Causing Asbestos May be Banned in the United States. July 27, 2010. Asbestos.com.
Hsien-fong, Lee. “Asbestos to be banned in 10 years”, July 26, 2010. Focus Taiwan News Channel.

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