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Int J Occup Environ Health. 2013 Apr-Jun;19(2):127-35. doi: 10.1179/2049396712Y.0000000011.

Why some, but not all, countries have banned asbestos.

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  • 1School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.



Out of 143 countries that consumed asbestos between 2003 and 2007, only 44 have banned asbestos. This study tried to explain why some countries have banned asbestos while others have not, based on a synthesis that asbestos ban policy of a country will rely on a process of cognition of threats and exploration of safer alternatives.


As we hypothesized that increased social cost of mesothelioma, capacity of health-related infrastructures, and policy diffusion from adjacent countries were related to asbestos ban adoption, published databases of asbestos ban years, mesothelioma mortality, country rankings in health care and human rights standings, and distribution of banning countries over 14 regions were analyzed accordingly.


The average mesothelioma death rate was significantly higher for countries with asbestos bans than in those with no ban (4·59 versus 1·83/million). No-ban countries had less well-developed health-related infrastructures. Among European countries, there was a tendency toward geographical diffusion of asbestos ban policy from Nordic to Western and then other European countries over the years. Even though aberrant cases were also noted where bans were instituted even without mesothelioma database, these were rather exceptions than rules.


Risk cognition is a complex process, but the presence of well-functioning health infrastructures, as well as the increased social cost of mesothelioma, that can make the plight of asbestos victims visible to the eyes of public and policy makers, may have contributed to this process. Asbestos ban policy from adjacent countries might have facilitated the adoption of alternative solutions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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