Legal Status of Asbestos in the U.S.

With all the evidence clearly showing the dangers of asbestos usage it would seem that asbestos would be illegal by now. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Though it was banned in 1989 the ban was repealed and in 1991 and asbestos is still legal today.

Due to litigation from workers injured during the asbestos mining process, asbestos is no longer produced in the US; it does however continue to be imported and processed within our borders.

In Europe a number of countries including Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland have passed all encompassing bans on Asbestos production, usage, importation, and exportation. Other countries, such as France have all but ended asbestos usage within their borders yet have been aggressively pushing their products in Asia, and Latin America.

In the mid-eighties, Canada, being the world’s second largest producer of asbestos, went so far as to lobby in the United States to promote the continued use of asbestos when the Environmental Protection Agency attempted to ban it. Their effort succeeded and the ban was not implemented. The Canadian government later went on to pay $4 million to the Asbestos Institute to promote the use of asbestos around the world.

Since its founding in 1991 a European federation called Ban Asbestos has held numerous meetings across the globe in as they continue to push for a world wide ban. Other organizations such as the International Labor Organization (the employment division of the UN) have pushed for international treaties establishing the rules for safe asbestos handling and labeling. The European Union has managed to pass laws regulating the safety procedures for handling asbestos and requiring labeling on all asbestos containing products. The subject of banning the use of asbestos in the Union has been heavily debated.

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