Worldwide Asbestos Use and Exposure
Asbestos has not only been used extensively in the United States, but throughout several other countries during the twentieth century. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is found around the world. The United States, along with other nations have mined asbestos to be used domestically, as well as for export. Despite the harmful effects of asbestos, some countries to this day still continue to manufacture and export it.
Despite the existence of regulations, Canada, like the United States, does not have a ban against asbestos. This has led to a long and complicated relationship between the country and asbestos use. Once the largest mine in the world, the Jeffrey Mine is located in a town named Asbestos, within the province of Quebec. The Jeffrey Mine is not the only mine in Canada, as several locations scatter the country’s landscape, which is ranked as the 5th largest producer of asbestos in the world. In contrast to the United States, who ceased to mine the mineral after 2002, Canadian politicians have considered reviving production at the Jeffrey Mine. Chrysotile asbestos from the Jeffrey Mine would be extracted by a small workforce so that they can export their product to countries such as India and Pakistan. These countries currently do not have regulations or safety restrictions regarding the product. The debate over reopening the mine has created controversy in Canada, as the same government pushing to reopen the mine has allocated millions of dollars on asbestos abatement projects in Canada’s schools and federal buildings.
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In Australia, the use of asbestos was banned in 2003. This was brought about by the Wittenoom Tragedy, Australia’s greatest industrial disaster. Starting in 1948, thousands of workers at the CSR asbestos mine located in Wittenoom, Australia, were exposed to lethal levels of blue asbestos. Employees worked tirelessly in conditions where even limited exposure would be long enough to contract an asbestos-related respiratory disease. The Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia states that those who lived near, worked at, or even visited Wittenoom were exposed to levels of asbestos one thousand times higher than what was occupationally regulated at the time. Even though warnings were issued from the Western Australia Health Department in the early 1960s the mine stayed in operation until 1966. To this day, Western Australia has the highest rate of death caused by mesothelioma per capita in the world.
Throughout Europe, asbestos is banned in many countries. It is currently banned in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Holland, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The Health and Safety Executive monitors asbestos-related health issues in the UK and notes that asbestos is the greatest cause of work-related deaths in the country. The HSE also warns that if a person worked in any sort of construction before the year 2000, they could be at risk of developing a disease related to asbestos exposure.
Various countries throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands are among the world’s top five producers and users of asbestos. China has the highest amount of asbestos use in the world consuming over 600,000 tons per year. Some of the countries located in Asia and the Pacific Islands have placed regulations and bans on the production and use of asbestos; however, it remains largely unregulated in this part of the world. India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines are all countries where restrictions do not exist. This is also a list of countries which Canada plans to export asbestos from their mines. As of 2010, Russia, China, and Kazakhstan, respectively are the first, second, and fourth largest producers of asbestos in the world. Despite all of this, there are those that are working to ban asbestos throughout Asia and the rest of the world, so that their fellow citizens can be protected from the dangers of asbestos.
Schneider, Andrew. (February 17, 2011). “Will Canada export death by rejuvenating its last asbestos mine?” Retrieved April 8, 2011 from AOL News.