Fast Facts: Why Asbestos is Banned in Many Countries Worldwide and More

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Before the 1970s, asbestos was one of the most widely used material for industrial components and equipment – and with good reasons. Its versatile properties allow it to withstand high pressure, chemical attacks, and extreme temperatures. It’s also relatively cheap compared to the other industrial materials at the time. Manufacturers used it to reinforce almost all of their products, from the biggest foundation beam to the smallest gasket.

Given these advantages, you might be wondering: why were its production and application regulated today? Why is it banned in some countries? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and more.

When did the regulation and prohibition of asbestos material behind?

  • The regulation of asbestos started in the early 1970s after researchers discovered that it contained toxic substances. Government bodies issued warnings against its use. In the US, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were created. These agencies implemented measures to limit asbestos and other hazardous materials.

Where asbestos banned? 

  • Asbestos is banned in over 50 countries. It’s banned in all 28 member countries of the European Union, including the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, however, asbestos is not banned in the US. The US continues to import, use, and integrate asbestos into various industrial materials and consumer products. Despite this, almost all domestic manufacturers of jointing sheet and other industrial materials have taken to using non-asbestos materials.

Why was asbestos banned? 

  • As mentioned before, asbestos contains harmful substances. Exposure to it can cause chronic respiratory conditions such lung cancer and mesothelioma.

How can you get sick from asbestos? 

  • Via inhalation and ingestion. Asbestos fibers are extremely thin and small. When they’re exposed, they’re very easy to shred. Shredded strands can drift and disperse in the air. Once inhaled or ingested, the fibers will embed themselves into the lungs or digestive tract and cause constant irritation. If these fibers accumulate into dangerous quantities, they can cause the conditions mentioned above. For this reason, materials that contain asbestos are not necessarily harmful as long as there are no exposed fibers.
  • In some cases, the asbestos fibers don’t go straight to lungs or digestive tract. They get stuck in the mucous membranes of the nose or the throat. If this happens, doctors can still do something to remove the fibers.

When is asbestos most dangerous? 

  • When it’s friable. This means that it disintegrates easily when handled or disturbed. Sprayed on asbestos coating is a good example. Meanwhile, materials, objects, and surfaces that contain asbestos are not harmful provided that they’re undamaged.  For instance, an asbestos floor tile is harmless. But, if it’s broken or shattered, it will release asbestos-containing dust which you can inhale or ingest.

What can make an asbestos-containing material’s more friable? 

  • Damage and age. Aside from these two, the following things can also increase friability: exposure to vibration, physical impact, and pressure.

Are there alternatives to asbestos? 

  • Yes. Manufacturers have developed many asbestos-free alternatives that can compete with their predecessor’s quality without compromising their handlers’ health. They’re usually composed of or a combination of Kevlar (aramid fiber), polymers, and other non-organic fibers.

Thinking of using asbestos materials for your next industrial project? Make sure you know its various pros and cons. Consider these facts before you make a decision.