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So many people still believe asbestos is a thing of the past.
It was used in construction and various products for centuries, and countless individuals believe now that its dangers are known, the toxin has been banned. Sadly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only is asbestos still being used in approximately 70% of the world, but some countries still rely heavily on the import and export of the mineral.
While the United States thankfully doesn’t have a booming asbestos market these days, it’s still actively being used in a few industries. The mineral isn’t banned and can be used in certain new products as long as its presence is only up to one percent. Along with these current uses, it can still be found in natural deposits and thousands of buildings and homes throughout the country.
More countries are joining the efforts to reach a global ban and help eliminate the health risks like mesothelioma that asbestos can cause. However, there is still a long way to go, especially in the face of countries like Russia with a booming asbestos industry.

Asbestos Use in the U.S.

Though asbestos is nowhere near as important in the United States as it once was, it’s still actively being used. Many people consider the main concern with asbestos to be its past, hidden in the construction of old buildings that made use of a variety of asbestos products. While these legacy uses are a great threat to the public’s health, asbestos is still being imported into the country for several uses.
In June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a first look into their investigation of the first ten chemicals being evaluated for unreasonable risk to public and environmental health, including asbestos. The EPA was given the authority to conduct risk evaluations of ten chemicals and more each year after the signing of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act in 2016. Though it could still take years to potentially ban any of these chemicals on the list, it’s a step in the right direction for a ban.
In this initial scoping document, we learned that about 340 metric tons (749,572 pounds) of raw chrysotile asbestos had been imported in 2016. The asbestos was imported primarily from Brazil, which the United States Geological Survey (USGS) notes has been the main source for the U.S. since 2012 as well. However, the amount imported has dropped significantly since then. In 2012, the USGS estimated an import of 1,610 tons, which decreased to about 772 tons the following year. At its peak use back in 1973, the United States consumed 803,000 tons of asbestos.

Today, the imported asbestos is primarily used for the chlor-alkali industry in the creation of semi-permeable diaphragms. The EPA also noted a current known use of asbestos in the creation of sheet gaskets for the chemical industry. Researchers at the USGS, however, expect the industry’s asbestos use to continue to decline as more consumers seek out non-asbestos diaphragms and products instead.