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UK HSA Clamps Down While US Asbestos Imports Soar

October 25, 2018

UK HSA Clamps Down While US Asbestos Imports Soar

October has been an unusual month in the chaotic world of global Asbestos. The month started with an announcement by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) of their intent to target construction firms with what they termed an “asbestos health inspection”.

These inspections herald the first time that the HSE will undertake inspections with a specific focus on targeting respiratory risks and occupational lung disease. Asbestos isn’t the sole product under scrutiny, silica is also under the HSE spotlight, and they intend to investigate the causes of a range of life-changing illnesses relating to work that are caused by airborne fibres.

Protection from ill-health is the main aim of the HSE, and the move towards a more focussed approach, combined with the use of increasingly stringent enforcement measures, is aimed at ensuring workers are protected. Leaders within the construction industry have widely welcomed this increasingly focused approach and the HSE preventative agenda.

Conversely, as the UK authorities clamp down on workers exposure to Asbestos in the workplace, new government data analysis coming out of the USA showed soaring asbestos imports into the United States between June and July 2018.

The data analysis was carried out by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and Environmental Working Group. Follow up research shows reports that, according to the US International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce, the US imported 272 metric tons of Asbestos in August, a staggering amount when compared to 13 metric tons in the previous month, July.

It may come to a shock to some that any asbestos, bar that for essential and controlled use in a regulated industry, that will not come into human contact, is being imported into the US at all. However, estimates predict that imports of around 750 metric tons of Asbestos will arrive in the US throughout 2018.

Unknown to many outside the country is the fact that the United States is one of the few major industrialized nations that doesn’t have an asbestos ban in place.

Investigations report the United States continues to use Asbestos in gaskets, roofing and fireproofing materials as well as other products in everyday public use.

The UK, Australia, Canada and the European Union, as well as over 50 other countries, all banned the use of Asbestos through various regulation and legislation between the late 1970s and the year 2000.

Since the early 1970s US government agencies, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were created to limit exposure to toxic pollutants, including Asbestos. But even though the material is highly regulated in the US today, Asbestos continues to be used in hundreds of consumer products under the rule that Asbestos ‘constitutes less than one per cent of the product.’

It seems, for now at least, that The White House has no plans to implement an outright ban of Asbestos and with the last asbestos mine in the US closed since 2002, industry and other users will continue to rely on imports from Brazil and more recently Russia while the product can be used legally in product manufacture.

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