The case for a global ban on asbestos

Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jul;118(7):897-901. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002285. Epub 2010 Jun 8.


Background: All forms of asbestos are now banned in 52 countries. Safer products have replaced many materials that once were made with it. Nonetheless, many countries still use, import, and export asbestos and asbestos-containing products, and in those that have banned other forms of asbestos, the so-called "controlled use" of chrysotile asbestos is often exempted from the ban. In fact, chrysotile has accounted for > 95% of all the asbestos used globally.

Objective: We examined and evaluated the literature used to support the exemption of chrysotile asbestos from the ban and how its exemption reflects the political and economic influence of the asbestos mining and manufacturing industry.

Discussion: All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are proven human carcinogens. All forms cause malignant mesothelioma and lung and laryngeal cancers, and may cause ovarian, gastrointestinal, and other cancers. No exposure to asbestos is without risk. Illnesses and deaths from asbestos exposure are entirely preventable.

Conclusions: All countries of the world have an obligation to their citizens to join in the international endeavor to ban the mining, manufacture, and use of all forms of asbestos. An international ban is urgently needed. There is no medical or scientific basis to exempt chrysotile from the worldwide ban of asbestos.

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos, Serpentine / adverse effects*
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Health / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Mining / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure*


  • Asbestos, Serpentine
  • Carcinogens, Environmental