In a unanimous ruling of the Colombian Congress, Colombia banned asbestos effective immediately. The ruling makes Colombia the seventh country in the world to completely ban the mineral and it joins over sixty countries. This is a positive step to ridding the world of new asbestos products in Colombia and throughout the world.
Victims were invited to the Congress before the final vote to share their testimonies about the illnesses and deaths they, and others, experienced because of asbestos. This deadly mineral is already at least partially banned in 60 countries; however, in the United States it is still not banned though there is world-wide scientific consensus there is no safe level of asbestos.
What does this mean for Colombia?
The Colombian Congress debated for 12 years before coming to this agreement, but now there is a complete ban. Companies that produce floor tiles, adhesives, cement products, coatings, pipeline wrap, felts, and reinforced plastics and many other products will be affected. By 2021, they must change to non-harmful compounds rather than asbestos. They will be aided in the change by the Ministry of Labor. Additionally Colombia banned asbestos mining and exportation.
Why ban asbestos?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 100,000 people die each year worldwide due to asbestos. Colombia estimates 1700 citizens died from asbestos exposure over the past 50 years. Exposure to the mineral can lead to lung cancer, asbestosis, and the deadly malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can take up to 50 years for diagnosis, but once diagnosed victims rarely live beyond two years. Fibers generally enter through the lungs. Since there is no safe level of exposure, a complete ban is essential to human health.
There will still be asbestos in products produced before the ban, this is a great first effort for Colombia to eliminate asbestos in their environment.