In the past decade, Brazil has been one of the top five producers of asbestos. The Brazilian Supreme Court instituted a formal ban on asbestos in 2017. However, market reports show asbestos exports continuing from Brazil.
Brazil’s Long History With Asbestos
Brazil has consistently been a top producer of asbestos. From 2015 to 2018, Brazil and Russia were the two largest sources of asbestos for the United States.
Brazil Bans Asbestos
In 2017, Brazil banned the following asbestos practices:
- Asbestos mining
- Asbestos processing
- Asbestos distribution
- Asbestos marketing
Many Brazilian leaders were still in favor of asbestos production. As a result, they pushed back against these regulations.
Asbestos Exports Continue
Although many Brazilian asbestos companies agreed to stop using asbestos in the country, they continued exporting the mineral to neighboring countries.
Companies Transporting Asbestos in Brazil
- Eternit S.A.
- Rápido 900 de Transportes Rodoviários Ltda
Individuals against asbestos exporting noted companies were still transporting the mineral through areas where it was illegal. As a result, they were putting individuals on the roadways and in local communities at risk of exposure.
Eternit S.A. continues to be a large concern for asbestos safety groups. Eternit S.A. was established in Brazil in the late 1930s. The company produces asbestos-cement products. Eternit S.A. also manufactures non-asbestos materials, including cement, plastics and plaster.
SAMA is a subsidiary of Eternit S.A. and responsible for mining and processing chrysotile asbestos. SAMA is currently the only producer of asbestos in Brazil.
Concerns About Asbestos Risks
Asbestos exposure can cause cancer and other illnesses. Asbestos causes mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and other diseases. There are many groups at risk from Brazil’s asbestos handling.
1. Those Handling and Transporting Asbestos
Workers are handling, packaging, loading, unloading and unpacking asbestos. This involves people in both Brazil and receiving countries. No amount of exposure or duration of exposure is safe. As a result, anyone coming into contact with asbestos fibers is at risk.
2. Those Receiving Asbestos and Asbestos Materials
Some of the countries importing asbestos from Brazil do not understand asbestos risks. As a result, they are being exposed without knowing they could develop cancer.
In April 2019, representatives from three Asian countries went to Brazil in an attempt to stop Brazil’s exports. Delegates were from Japan, India and Indonesia. Their efforts became known as the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission.
3. Those Indirectly Involved With Asbestos Handling
There have been accidents involving asbestos transport in Brazil. These accidents put drivers, passersby, first responders and others at risk of exposure.
- 2009: An asbestos carrier truck was transporting white asbestos in torn packages. Wood splinters had damaged the material, disturbing fibers.
- 2010: A truck carrying 26 tons of asbestos was in an accident on Anhanguera Highway.
Advocates Against Brazil’s Asbestos Handling
In addition to the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission, others have spoken out in regards to Brazil’s involvement with asbestos exposure. This includes Fernanda Giannasi.
Fernanda Giannasi is the Labour Inspector for the Ministry of Labour in Brazil. Giannasi is also a founding member of the Associação Brasileira dos Expostos ao Amianto (ABREA). This is an association for Brazilian workers exposed to asbestos.
Giannasi noted that SAMA’s asbestos trade is a health threat and a contradiction to the 2017 Supreme Court ruling. Giannasi has experience with asbestos claims, helping thousands of workers with asbestos lawsuits after occupational exposure.
Advocates hope to see the end of all asbestos trading around the world, including exports and imports. Banning all uses of asbestos could prevent many from being exposed to its dangers.