A Russian asbestos company, Uralasbest, which operates a massive mine in the Ural mountains has reportedly emblazoned their products with Donald Trump’s face. Their Slogan? ‘Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.’
Asbestos is a naturally occuring fibre that was commonly used in construction materials in New Zealand, the United States, and several other countries from the early 1930s to the late 1980s. Since then it has been banned in over 60 countries, after overwhelming scientific evidence found that the fibres inside asbestos are carcinogenic and greatly increase the risk of asbestosis, Mesothelioma, and several other diseases.
Why is Donald Trump’s face on a Russian company’s asbestos products?
It’s difficult to know with certainty why Trump’s face ended up on the Uralasbest’s products but it may be in response to his public defense of the asbestos industry. In his book ‘The Art of the Deal’ Trump stated that Asbestos restrictions in the States were lead by the mob, and that the World Trade Centre would not have burnt down if it was clad with the fibre.
Urablest may also may be motivated by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inaction on asbestos. The United States has never implemented a full asbestos ban but, in 2016, the Toxic Substances Control Act was amended to consider all uses of asbestos when assessing its risk and moving toward completely outlawing the fibre.
The Trump administration are also reportedly excluding legacy uses, or asbestos left in buildings and homes, from their risk assessment (as well as limiting other aspects of the assessment). This means that the most damaging asbestos won’t be considered, and that it’s unlikely the full extent of any asbestos risks will be established. The EPA stated that risk evaluations and decisions will be made by Dec, 2019.
Vocal activist groups including Earthjustice are suing the administration, saying their handling of the legislation is illegal and immoral.
Is there more going on here?
Uralasbest’s Trump endorsement could be more meaningful than tongue-in-cheek humour. In fact, the Washington Post recently suggested that the playful endorsement could be a sly attempt to fill a gaping hole in the American asbestos-import market.
In late 2017, Brazil’s Supreme Court voted to completely ban the production, marketing, distribution, and manufacture of chrysotile asbestos. Until then, Brazil supplied 95 per cent of US asbestos imports, exceeding 705 metric tonnes per year. The Russian-owned Uralasblest, which reportedly counts Putin as an ally, could be reacting to this gap in the market and pouncing on the opportunity in their own bizarre way.
Whatever happens across the Atlantic, New Zealanders can be thankful that we have common sense asbestos laws, and an abundance of experts in asbestos testing and removal. By understanding the danger that asbestos represents and treating it with respect, we can help minimise its harm and keep New Zealanders safe. Make sure you manage asbestos risk better than Donald Trump does - get in touch with the expert team here at Chemcare for asbestos testing, management and removal.