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An Overview of the Worldwide Efforts to Ban Asbestos

Asbestos was once a widely used material in construction and insulation due to its remarkable properties. However, the severe health risks associated with asbestos exposure have led to a global movement to ban its use. This article will discuss the progress of the worldwide asbestos ban movement, focusing on how countries around the world address this critical issue.


The Dangers of Asbestos

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and long-term exposure to asbestos fibres can cause numerous health issues, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Due to these risks, there has been a growing push for a global ban on asbestos use, production, and trade.


The Global Asbestos Ban Movement

The global asbestos ban movement has gained significant momentum over several decades. More than 60 countries have implemented bans or restrictions on using asbestos, with many more considering similar measures.

European Union: The EU implemented a complete ban on asbestos in 2005, prohibiting the production, import, and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials.

Australia: Australia has been a leader in asbestos awareness, research, and policy development since 2003, when the government prohibited using asbestos.

Canada: Formerly a major exporter of asbestos, Canada announced a comprehensive asbestos ban in 2018, prohibiting mining, producing, and importing asbestos-containing items.

Developing Countries: While many developing countries continue to use asbestos, several are taking steps towards enacting bans or limits, typically with the help of international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).


Challenges in Implementing Asbestos Bans

Despite the progress in banning asbestos, several challenges remain.

Economic factors: Some countries continue to use asbestos due to its low cost and widespread availability.

Lack of awareness: In many regions, there needs to be more awareness about the dangers of asbestos, resulting in its continued use.

Limited resources: Developing countries may need more financial and technical resources to implement and enforce asbestos bans.

Industry lobbying: In some instances, the asbestos industry has lobbied against bans, arguing that certain forms of asbestos are less harmful or that controlled use is a viable option.


International Efforts to Support Asbestos Bans

Various international organisations and initiatives are working to support and promote asbestos bans worldwide:

  • World Health Organization (WHO): The WHO has declared asbestos a public health priority and supports the implementation of national asbestos bans.
  • International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS): IBAS is a global network of asbestos activists that promotes the exchange of information and supports the global ban movement.
  • International Labour Organization (ILO): The ILO has called for eliminating asbestos-related diseases and supports national efforts to ban asbestos use.
  • Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA): Based in Australia, ASEA works with international partners to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos and promote the development of national asbestos policies.


Moving Forward: The Future of the Asbestos Ban Movement

Despite obstacles, the worldwide asbestos ban movement continues to expand. Continued efforts by governments, international organisations, and advocacy groups will be essential to achieving the objective of an asbestos-free world. For all countries to successfully enact and enforce asbestos bans, there must be a greater public understanding, political will, and financial and technical support.

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