Study looks at why only some countries ban asbestos

Many people have seen the devastation of diseases that are caused or exacerbated by exposure to asbestos. After lying dormant for decades, asbestos-related diseases often start showing symptoms long after a person can protect themselves from being exposed. By the time a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other similar disease, it can be too late for treatment to be effective and little can be done to help victims.

For victims of asbestos-related diseases and their families, it can be very frustrating that the fiber is still available. Many countries, including the United States, do not have a comprehensive ban in place that would prohibit the use of the material. If the dangers of asbestos exposure are so well known, why have so many countries failed to ban asbestos or include it on global lists of hazardous substances? One study recently tackled this very question.

Researchers in South Korea recently looked into why some countries ban asbestos while others do not. They were able to determine that countries with better databases in place to track mesothelioma cases were generally more likely to have an asbestos ban in place. They suggest that with better tracking methods, the issues related to asbestos-related diseases are more widely reported to the public and it is more likely that the country will ban asbestos.

The research also suggests that there is a geographical response to asbestos banning. Researchers believe that it is more likely that a country will ban asbestos if neighboring countries also ban the fiber.

Unfortunately, the United States is not one of the countries that has banned asbestos. There are still nearly 100 countries that have not banned the substance, despite the knowledge that exposure can cause cancer and lead to fatality. There are about 90,000 people who die from mesothelioma every year, but even that grim statistic is not enough to prompt authorities to ban asbestos and prevent more people from getting sick.

Source: Surviving Mesothelioma, “Asbestos Bans Influenced by Mesothelioma ‘Visibility’,” May 21, 2013