Brazilian Supreme Federal Court Bans Asbestos

Minister Rosa Weber, member of Brazil's Supreme Federal Court.   Courtesy: Pedro Ladeira / folhapress

Minister Rosa Weber, member of Brazil's Supreme Federal Court.  Courtesy: Pedro Ladeira / folhapress

On November 29, The Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (STF) voted 7-2 to ban the mining, processing, marketing and distribution of chrysotile asbestos, the most common type of asbestos, upon concluding that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. The landmark decision deemed the article of a federal law allowing for "controlled use of asbestos" unconstitutional, and prevents the national congress from enacting new legislation which allows the use or production of asbestos.

Asbestos is well known for causing diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, and for causing hundreds to thousands of deaths globally every year.

Up to this point, Brazil was the third largest producer of chrysotile asbestos in the world, and the supplier of 95% of the asbestos imported into the United States, which may turn to Russia for its asbestos import needs. However, advocates for banning asbestos worldwide have faith that the decision by the STF will spark change in other countries.

“This decision will have a global impact on the market. It will create a domino effect,” Fernanda Giannasi, advisor to Brazil’s Association of the Asbestos-Exposed, told BBC Brazil. “If an asbestos-producing country like Brazil is capable of making such a decision, why wouldn’t it be followed by those countries that buy asbestos?”

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