Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral once hailed for its versatility and fire-resistant properties, has long since been recognised as a significant health hazard. Linked to a range of serious health conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, asbestos has been banned in many countries worldwide. However, despite the overwhelming evidence of its dangers, asbestos remains in use in several countries, putting workers and the public at risk.
Countries Still Using Asbestos
According to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), approximately 55 countries have implemented comprehensive bans on asbestos. However, a number of nations continue to allow its use, including:
Russia: As the world's largest producer and exporter of asbestos, Russia remains a significant source of the material. While there have been efforts to reduce asbestos use, it remains widely employed in construction materials, brake linings, and other products.
China: With a significant asbestos industry, China is another major producer and consumer of the material. Asbestos is used in a variety of applications, including roofing, flooring, and insulation.
India: Asbestos is still mined and used in India, primarily in construction materials and brake linings. Despite growing awareness of its hazards, the country has yet to implement a comprehensive ban.
Kazakhstan: Asbestos remains in use in Kazakhstan, despite being linked to serious health problems among workers and the general population.
Canada: While asbestos was banned in 2018, the country still has exemptions for its use in the Nuclear & Military sectors up until 2029.
The Persisting Threat of Asbestos
The continued use of asbestos in these countries poses a significant health risk to workers and the public. Asbestos fibres, when inhaled or ingested, can lodge in the lungs and other organs, leading to a range of health problems, including mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
The long latency period of asbestos-related diseases, often taking decades to develop, makes it particularly challenging to address the issue. Workers exposed to asbestos years ago may only now be experiencing the health consequences, and many cases go undiagnosed.
Calls for a Global Ban
International organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), have called for a global ban on asbestos, recognizing the significant health risks it poses. However, achieving a comprehensive ban remains challenging due to economic and political factors in some countries.
Despite these challenges, advocates for asbestos bans continue to press for action, highlighting the need to protect public health and prevent future suffering caused by this hazardous material.