The safe disposal of asbestos wastes is an internationally regulated and controlled process by both the Rotterdam and Basel Conventions. These Conventions have developed a list of hazardous substances in order to control and monitor the use and transboundary movement of hazardous chemicals. Asbestos wastes commonly appear under the hazardous waste category in international waste management systems. The hazardous features of asbestos are related to the fibers release followed by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material.
Asbestos properties and health considerations of asbestos exposure
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral characterized by a fibrous structure. There are various categories of asbestos; however Chrysotile, Amosite and Crocidolite asbestos are the most prevailing types that have found a wide use of applications over several fields. The combination of fire-resistance, insulation and chemical inertness has made this material very favorable, especially for its use in various construction and building materials.
However, the preference of using asbestos in products has been reconsidered due to the health problems caused by human exposure to asbestos’ fibers. When inhaled, microscopic fibers accumulate in the lungs and can eventually lead to Mesothelioma, lung cancer and other health issues. Studies have proven the carcinogenic properties of asbestos; therefore, waste containing asbestos is classified as hazardous waste. Estimations made by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that globally, 125 million people are annually exposed to asbestos. The International Labor Organization additionally states that approximately 100,000 people die each year from occupational exposure to asbestos.
International asbestos production and consumption variations
Currently, most of the developed countries have banned the mining and the use of asbestos in different products. However, in developing and emerging countries, its production and use in products is still prevailing. The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat displays the results from the year-long reports of the U.S. Geological Surveys showing the worldwide asbestos production and consumption trends. Charts demonstrate that most of the production takes place in Asian countries. The consumption status worldwide is somewhat spread out, however it is clear that the big part of asbestos is again consumed in Asian countries. Overall, the estimations also show that since the year 2000, the number of countries banning the use of asbestos has increased.
Under Downloads&Links, the international legal instruments put into effect for banning, controlling and monitoring the use of asbestos and waste asbestos can be found.