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1722f Asbestos related diseases in the united states: historical trends and current situation
  1. PJ Landrigan1,
  2. RA Lemen2
  1. 1Arnhold Institute for Global Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA
  2. 2Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health of the Emory University, Atlanta, USA


Asbestos use Asbestos was first discovered in the USA in 1825. Importation began in the mid-1800s and domestic mining in the 1890s. The industry grew in the 20th century and by the 1970s, over 7 00 000 tons were consumed annually. Then, because of environmental and occupational restrictions coupled with vigorous efforts to seek legal compensation for injured workers, use declined. By 2000 annual consumption had fallen to 14 600 tons, and most manufacturers had ceased production. However, the USA has never banned asbestos and still imports over 300 tons per year. Importation has recently increased. The chloralkali industry is the principal consumer.

Asbestos-related disease Asbestos has caused over 2 00 000 deaths in the USA. Multiple studies published between 1918 and 2000, most notably those of Irving Selikoff, documented the American ARD epidemic and linked asbestos to multiple cancers, mesothelioma in particular. The epidemic continues to the present, and in 2016 there were 2597 mesothelioma deaths, many in persons<55 years.

Prevention policies The first non-binding guidance on occupational asbestos exposure was proposed in the USA in 1938. The first regulation was established in 1972. In 1975, OSHA declared asbestos a human carcinogen. In 1979, OSHA and NIOSH declared that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. In 1989, EPA issued a rule banning most asbestos-containing products, but this ban was overturned by the courts in 1991, and asbestos-containing products are therefore allowed currently in US markets.

Proposal for eliminating ARDs A complete ban on all manufacture and use of asbestos worldwide is the only strategy to end the global pandemic of ARDs. The possibility of securing an asbestos ban in the USA was rekindled in 2016 with passage of new chemical safety legislation. Asbestos is listed under this law as a priority chemical. Responsibility for enforcement rests with the Trump Administration.

  • Use of asbestos in the USA
  • American asbestos epidemic
  • elimination of ARDs

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