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Thirty Years Later, Swedish Asbestos Ban Proven Helpful

When the dangers of asbestos became apparent, many countries discussed the option of banning the use of the substance, but not all of them did completely. Iceland, Norway and Sweden opted out of its use entirely in the early 1980s, while in the United States its use was severely curtailed, but never entirely stopped. Now, more than thirty years later, Swedish researchers are examining the impact of the ban that was put in place and say that it has proven to have prevented many deaths and illnesses.

According to senior professor Bengt Jarvholm of the department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umea University in Sweden, countries that are still using asbestos – and especially industrialized countries – no longer have justification for doing so. In a recent interview Jarvholm was quoted as saying, “I’m surprised [the U.S. hasn’t banned asbestos]. There are other, less dangerous substances to use. There is no real argument, apart from pure economic ones, to keep using it.”

There are clear and very real reasons against its use. Asbestos has been shown to cause mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer, as well as asbestosis. There had once been talk of banning its use in the United States entirely, and the Environmental Protection Agency had established the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule in the late 1980s, but powerful lobbying prevented the law from remaining in place and the toxic substance continues to be used in certain applications today.

Those countries that have entirely banned the use of asbestos have seen a slow but steady decline in the number of mesothelioma diagnoses they experience. Because the disease has such a long latency period it is difficult to draw a straight line between the ban and the diminishing number of cases until enough time has gone by. But Jarvholm said that a recent study analyzing five-year birth cohorts showed that men and women in Sweden who were exposed to asbestos prior to the ban were at much higher risk than those born at a later date, “Our analysis clearly shows that the ban and other restrictions in the mid-70s and early’80s have decreased the risk.” They estimate that there were approximately 12 fewer cases of asbestosis in Sweden then there would have been had asbestos’ use continued, and 121 cases of mesothelioma.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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