In the recent past, the World Health Organization linked asbestos to 107,000 lost lives worldwide in a single year. The use of asbestos is currently banned in 55 countries, including most of Europe. Despite the fact that an estimated 10-15% of those deaths occurred in the United States, asbestos is not banned in the United States or Canada.
Here in the US, asbestos is still imported and found in consumer products like clothing, vinyl floor tiles, roof coatings, cement shingles, and automobile brake pads and clutches. Many older homes further still contain asbestos in heating ducts, fireplaces, interior paint, and electrical wiring. Although some specific restrictions on the use of asbestos are in place in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) has a full list of asbestos-containing products that it is still legal to manufacture, import, and sell here.
This year the EPA is set to review restrictions on 10 high priority chemicals as part of the Toxic Substance Control Act, including asbestos. So how dangerous is asbestos? Is the US likely to change its stance on the minerals?