The use of asbestos is one of the most controversial issues surrounding the industrial minerals industry. Its carcinogenic nature, an overall lack of knowledge of minimum safe exposure levels, its widespread use for more than 100 years, and the long latency for the development of lung cancer and mesothelioma are the main contributing factors to these controversies. Another factor is that, despite decades of research, the mechanisms responsible for its carcinogenic properties are still largely unknown. The United States has produced about 3.28 million metric tons of asbestos fiber and used approximately 31.5 million tons between 1900 and 2000. About half of this amount was used since 1960. Cumulative world production during that same time period was about 173 million tons. Assuming that unusually large stocks are not maintained and that world consumption roughly equals production, about half of the world production and consumption occurred since 1976. The United States and western European nations were the largest consumers of asbestos during the first two-thirds of the 20th century. They were surpassed by the collective production and consumption of States within the former Soviet Union by the 1970s. With the onset of the health issues concerning asbestos in the late 1960s and early 1970s, world production and consumption began to decline during the 1980s. In 2000, world consumption, estimated to be 1.48 million tons, was only 31% that of 1980. Countries in Asia, South America, and the former Soviet Union remain the largest users of asbestos. More specifically, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, and Thailand are the only countries that consumed more than 60,000 tons of asbestos in 2000. These six countries accounted for more than 80% of world?s apparent consumption in 2000.
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USGS Numbered Series
Worldwide asbestos supply and consumption trends from 1900 to 2000