Archive for October, 2008

Asbestos is still imported and used in the U.S. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. imported and used an estimated 1,820 tons of asbestos in 2007; see this PDF file from the USGS, please click only if you want to download the PDF. Also, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill H.R. 6903 The Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos and Prevent Mesothelioma Act to ban the future importation and use of asbestos (it is already banned in 40 countries) and provide funding for medical research into effective treatments for asbestos-related diseases. Also, around the 2007 Christmas season, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization had some household products, such as duct tape, and toys tested and found they contained asbestos. See Ban Asbestos.

Thanks to the reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, for this information.


Today I am delighted to publish a guest post on asbestos and human health, and their links to the environment. The post is by James O’Shea, content editor of; James K. Bashkin (Site Publisher and Editor; the guest post is the opinion of its author).

January 22, 2009: For more discussion of this topic, please see the comments here and the version of this article, with discussion, that was re-published by me on

January 1, 2009: Today I am somewhat less delighted to point out the comment made by Dennis of, who provided the link This blog, written by Dennis, documents some strange behaviors associated with the sponsors of the center that offered this guest report. While I was fully aware that they were sponsored by a law firm, I was not aware of some apparently predatory practices that Dennis has uncovered. I have removed the live links in this article except the one that I supplied to the literature citation, but you can still get to the site if you want to by typing the url of the center,, into your browser. Meanwhile, I have added to my blogroll. Thanks, Dennis!

The processing of fossil fuels has a long trail of consequences, with some being more obvious than others. There are essentially two tiers of negative ramifications to backwards energy policies. The first of these are the direct environmental consequences of the burning of fossil, which has been well documented in recent years with the recent interest in the effects of global warming. However, the second tier are the human health effects associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

(Revised Editor’s note: this paragraph has been removed.  Some comments refer to the missing text).

Then there are the more indirect costs, and specifically those which are associated with the industry itself. Working conditions in the fossil fuel industry are among the most hazardous of any occupation. One of the hazards workers will encounter is asbestos, which has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission as a known carcinogen. And even though asbestos was banned by the CPSC in the late 1970’s, older asbestos fixtures still exist within nearly all facets of the fossil fuel infrastructure. These older and sometimes damaged fixtures pose and even greater hazard to human health.

When microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled, they lodge themselves in the lining of lungs. This lays the groundwork for the deadly asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Perhaps it should come as no coincidence then that rates of pleural cancer (mesothelioma) in oil refinery workers are among the highest of any occupation.

What we begin to see then, is that there are effects of ozone depletion and fossil fuel use and processing, that are detrimental not only to the planet, but also to human health. When the world opens its eyes to the crisis we’re supporting, we’ll not only have sustained the future for our children, but also saved lives.


Environmental Protection Agency

Occupational Medicine 2007 (an Oxford Journal), Mortality of UK Oil Refinery Workers and Petroleum Distribution Workers 1951-2003, by Tom Sorahan, Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Birmingham.