2012 Overview of Asbestos Status Quo
Since 2000, the number of national asbestos bans has trebled from 18 to 54. The fact that the use and sale of asbestos has now been prohibited by European, Latin America, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern countries is highly significant. What is of equal importance, however, is the reduction in the number of countries which are using significant quantities (more than 500 tonnes/year) of asbestos; in recent years, the number of such countries has dropped from 66 to 35. This means that, of the 196 nations recognized by the UN, only 18% continue to use this carcinogenic substance, in what may be deemed commercial quantities, while 82% do not. It is also quite usual for countries to stop importing and using asbestos without necessarily enacting legislation making such practices mandatory.
The current situation in Singapore seems to illustrate this point. According to a presentation entitled: Regulation and legislative issues for safe management of asbestos in Singapore by Dr Lee Lay Tin, regulations to reduce hazardous asbestos exposures have been enacted in Singapore since 1979. As restrictions on asbestos use increased during the 1980s, the number of asbestos processors dwindled, so that by 1989 only two companies were registered as asbestos users. Since 2008, the use of actinolite, anthophyllite, tremolite and products containing them has been illegal. While there is no legislative ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos there are administrative regulations which stipulate that the import of chrysotile and chrysotile-containing materials are only permitted within a licensing regime. According to the data collected by the United State Geological Survey, since 2007 virtually no asbestos has been consumed in Singapore.
Graph courtesy of Sugio Furuya of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network.
October 22, 2012