The call by many concerned health, legal and asbestos rights groups for a total global ban of asbestos is certainly not new but is getting more pronounced as each new set of statistics is released, which show the persistence of asbestos-related diseases such as abestosis.

A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos is found throughout the world, and has been mined for widespread industrial and construction use as a fire and chemical resistant insulator since the 1860’s.

Recent research has found that peak use of asbestos occurred around 1977, when about 25 countries were producing approximately 4.8 million metric tonnes per year, with 85 countries manufacturing asbestos products. Europe and the United States were the largest users of asbestos during the first two-thirds of the 20th century. The long latency periods of up to 40 to 50 years or more mean that incidence of asbestos-related disease and consequential numbers of asbestos compensation claims are expected to peak over the next decade.

Despite growing public asbestos awareness and the attempts by a number of industry employers to cover up the devastating effects of asbestos exposure and evade their legal responsibilities for many decades, from the 1980’s onwards it has been either highly regulated or banned in most developed western countries.

Increasingly, many scientists, doctors and asbestos rights groups have been calling for a total global ban on both the mining and use of asbestos.

All forms of asbestos are now banned in 52 countries and the manufacture of products with safer materials have replaced the use of asbestos. However, many countries still use, import, and export asbestos and asbestos-containing products, even where asbestos use is supposedly banned, the so-called “controlled use” of chrysotile asbestos is often exempted although it is known that it creates the same risk of illness, and accounts for more than 95% of all global asbestos use.

All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, cause malignant mesothelioma, lung and laryngeal cancers, and evidence shows it as a likely cause of ovarian, gastrointestinal, and other cancers. There is now no medical or scientific basis to exempt chrysotile from the call for a worldwide ban of asbestos.