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  • Writer's pictureKevin Maxwell

Asbestos and the Politics Surrounding It.

Most everyone is familiar with the term asbestos and associate it with a commercially-used substance that is known to cause cancer and other health issues. But, did you know it is a natural mineral? Are you aware of its many uses? Are you confused on whether or not it is banned? Keep reading and we’ll answer these questions.


What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a mineral akin to the silica compounds used in glass. It quickly gained popularity in the building and automobile industries because of the abundant supply, cheap processing, its durability, and resistance to heat and various chemicals.

Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was used in roofing, drywall, ceiling and flooring materials, insulation, and gaskets, as well as the automobile assembly lines in everything from brake pads to interior soundproof padding.

The different types of asbestos are categorized by color and shape, with the two most common types being amphibole and chrysotile. In the late 1970s, the EPA banned the manufacturing of amphibole asbestos, due to associated health risks. While there has been much controversy surrounding the safety of any form of asbestos, since the 1980s, only chrysotile asbestos has been used commercially in the United States. Additionally, in other parts of the world, asbestos is still being mined extensively.

How often is Asbestos Still Used?

According to statistics, in 2015, Russia mined 1 million metric tons, while China, India, and Brazil excavated several thousands in metric tons, for use in several products. Yet, countries like Iceland, Australia, Germany, and Japan banned it entirely. In fact, it is outlawed in 55 countries because of health concerns.

In regards to the United States, the use of asbestos has been extremely reduced over the past 20 years, as ongoing research and litigation continues. Additionally, the EPA states they are reevaluating the potential health risks, based on the “Toxic Substances Control Act Reform.”

Asbestos Continues to Be Prevalent in the World

Even though much of the Western world has discontinued or drastically restricted the use of asbestos, it is still prevalent. When you consider its extensive use during the 20th century and realize how many of those buildings, homes, and vehicles are still in existence, it is impossible to avoid asbestos completely. Fortunately, as long as the microscopic asbestos fibers don’t contaminate the air, it doesn’t pose major health risks.

Health Risks of Asbestos

Asbestos is linked to several health issues affecting the lungs, digestive tract, stomach, heart, and even the reproductive system. Such problems include cancer, breathing issues, and chronic inflammation.

The severity of health risks are based on the type of and duration of exposure, as well as an individual’s age health and lifestyle. Symptoms and signs of asbestos related problems are sometimes nonexistent for 10 to 40 years. However, asbestos contamination claims the lives of more than 100,000 people annually, as estimated by the World Health Organization.

What are Government Entities Doing?

In 2017, the Rotterdam Convention attempted to have chrysotile asbestos included in the list of hazardous chemicals. However, in order for such a treaty to be passed, the worldwide vote must be unanimous, which did not happen. Steps are being taken to change the ruling requirement from unanimous to ¾ majority, but until that happens, the likelihood of asbestos being banned completely is very minimal.

The corporations still using asbestos are reaping the financial rewards because it is a cheap material and in abundant supply. Additionally, there are companies like the International Chrysotile Association arguing that this particular type of asbestos is significantly safer than what was used prior to 1991.

So, until government authorities make a stand to protect the people, it’s up to each of us as individuals to be diligent about the knowledge and handling of asbestos.

Asbestos testing and inspection are performed through our sister company Albany Asbestos, LLC.

To schedule a Asbestos testing, sampling and inspection call our Team: (518) 964-2081!

The Author Kevin Maxwell is the owner and operator of Maxwell Home Inspection Services, LLC. Kevin Maxwell is a certified Home Inspector located in Albany NY that has performed over 6000 Inspections.

Phone: 1-800-598-4754


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