What Are the Most Surprising Countries That Have Not Banned Asbestos?

Large-scale use of asbestos in the United States dates back well over 100 years, but use of the mineral around the world started centuries ago. Historians note that Ancient Greeks used asbestos in clothing, and ancient Romans used it in both fabrics and building materials. Similarly, ancient Egyptians, Persians, and Scandinavians used asbestos. Even then, people appreciated that asbestos could provide strength, heat-resistance, and insulation. Interestingly, though, ancient Roman writings also make mention of sickness arising from exposure to asbestos.

While the focus of this article is not to debate exactly how long employers and manufacturers have known about the dangers of using asbestos, the knowledge of asbestos-related illness, like mesothelioma, has been on American radar for decades. In fact, middle-aged and older Americans likely recall ground-breaking litigation in the 1970s and 1980s when thousands of lawsuits led to numerous companies filing for bankruptcy.

Since that time, the government has taken some action to limit asbestos exposure in America. But is that enough? Some countries have totally banned the use of asbestos, and some have not. We’ll provide some notable examples in this article.

Worldwide Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure is not just an American problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 125 million people around the world are still exposed to asbestos at work, and approximately 107,000 people die every year. As a result, some countries have banned asbestos.

Here are some top examples of countries that have banned the mineral:

  • Iceland
  • Japan
  • Germany 
  • Sweden
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Greece
  • Italy  
  • South Korea
  • Poland 
  • Spain
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Turkey 
  • United Kingdom

This is only a partial list intended to demonstrate that countries from many parts of the world have taken strict actions to ban asbestos. Asbestos Nation (affiliated with the Environmental Working Group, or EWG) created a chart listing all of the nations that had banned asbestos at the time the chart was created.

Keep in mind that some countries listed as having banned asbestos may have permitted narrow exceptions within their laws. Additionally, because laws are constantly changing, the chart may not reflect countries that have recently been added to the list. Additionally, there are sometimes allegations that a country that has banned asbestos continues to mine it.

Which Countries Have Not Banned Asbestos

Perhaps more interesting is the list of countries that have not banned asbestos. Notable examples include:

  • United States
  • Russia 
  • China
  • India

Canada, previously on this list, took steps to ban asbestos at the end of 2018. According to EWG, a whopping 8 million pounds of asbestos have entered the United States over the last decade. 

Would Banning Asbestos Resolve Asbestos-Related Illnesses?

The first problem is that even if the United States were to totally ban asbestos, countries like India and China still use hundreds of thousands of tons per year of the substance. We also know that these countries produce goods that are shipped all around the world. Thus, there would always be a concern that some products containing asbestos would reach us, even if their import were banned.

But the greater concern is the length of time that it takes for asbestos-related illness to develop. Mesothelioma can take years and even decades to develop after exposure to asbestos. Thus, even with a ban, people who were previously exposed could still become sick.

Call with Questions

If you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases, we know that you likely have questions about your rights. Please call the experienced mesothelioma lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield and we will be happy to answer them. We handle cases all over Oregon because we think it is imperative that wrongdoers be held accountable for their actions. That way, all of society will be safer.


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