One of the world’s largest asbestos companies is now selling and shipping off its chrysotile asbestos with president Donald Trump’s face printed on their plastic wrap. The Russian company, called Uralasbest, mines asbestos from a 7-mile chasm in the Ural Mountains and sells their asbestos to the rest of the world, including to chlor-alkali companies within the U.S.
Uralasbest claims that it’s asbestos mine, which is located in the infamous Russian city of Asbest, is the biggest asbestos mine in the world.
According to several reports from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the New York Post, the Russian company is not only using president Trump’s face for branding on its packages, it’s also claiming that their product is “Approved by Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States.”
Russian Company Posts Facebook Photos Praising Trump
According to the non-profit investigative news organization Center for Public Integrity, Uralasbest has known ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who supports the company because of its annual $800 Million revenue stream, which is good for the Russian economy. Putin’s support of asbestos is so unwavering that Russian asbestos lobbyist Denis Nikitin stated, “We [the asbestos companies in Russia] feel the absolute support of the state.”
Now the country’s largest asbestos producer is heaping praise on Donald Trump. On June 25, Uralasbest posted on their company Facebook page 2 photos; images of their chrysotile asbestos wrapped in plastic and readied for shipping on warehouse pallets. Each pallet of asbestos bears several images of the U.S. president’s smiling face at the center of a red seal. Translated to English by the EWG, the Facebook post that accompanied the 2 images allegedly says:
“Donald is on our side! … He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos ‘100 percent safe after application.’”
Under Pruitt and Trump, EPA Changes Stance on Asbestos
It’s been long known that, like Putin, Donald Trump favors the asbestos industry, once going so far as to tweet that World Trade Center buildings “never would’ve burned down” if they’d been fireproofed by “incredibly powerful and fire retardant” asbestos. He also deemed asbestos “100 percent safe.” And in his 1997 book, “The Art of the Comeback,” he stated that the anti-asbestos movement was a “mob-led” conspiracy.
Much like Trump, Pruitt, who lasted only 18 months as the EPA’s administrator, proved he was a proponent of asbestos not through his Twitter account, but through his pro-asbestos actions. In his short time with the administration, Pruitt made sure the EPA excluded so-called “legacy” uses of asbestos from the safety risk evaluation that is required under the U.S.’s primary chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Ultimately this means that the asbestos lurking in many buildings constructed before the 1980s – schools, homes, and offices – will be disregarded by the government.
Under Pruitt, the EPA also significantly narrowed the kinds of asbestos included in its definition of asbestos, which involved the elimination of some of the most-dangerous asbestos exposures from the EPA’s consideration. All of this has occurred under Trump’s supervision, and all of this means an asbestos ban by the EPA is far less likely now than it was when the TSCA passed under Obama.
The Obama administration pressured the EPA into making the risk assessment of asbestos a priority under the revised TSCA; indeed, the carcinogenic substance was even somewhat of a “poster child” for the bipartisan approval and passing of the bill. But in the 2 years since the TSCA was revised, there has been limited – if any – traction toward a ban. Pruitt, in one of his final moves before resigning, declined to ban new uses of asbestos.
Asbestos in the U.S.: A Long History
Once hailed a “miracle mineral” by dozens of industries from shipbuilding to firefighting, asbestos is now known as one of the deadliest naturally occurring minerals in the world. It’s banned in over 60 countries – including Canada and most European nations – and outright denounced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in addition to the World Health Organization (WHO), which states bluntly that “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis.”
That’s not all: Once thought to be the killer of around 15,000 Americans each year, a recent study by Jukka Takala, president of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), found the death toll from asbestos exposure could in fact be much, much higher. Her study found that asbestos could actually be responsible for up to 40,000 American deaths each year and over 255,000 deaths worldwide.
Still, in spite of these grim statistics the U.S. remains one of the only industrialized nations that has yet to issue a ban on asbestos, and under the direction of the current administration it doesn’t look like a ban is coming anytime soon.
Not a Good Sign for American Public
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 95 percent of U.S.’s 2016 asbestos imports came from Brazil, with the remaining 5 percent coming from Russia. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that 705 metric tons of asbestos came into the U.S. in 2016 compared to the 343 metric tons that came in 2015.
Year-by-year, U.S. asbestos imports are increasing.
When in 2017 Brazil joined the 60-plus countries that banned all uses of asbestos, Russia and its neighbor Kazakhstan suddenly became the world’s largest suppliers of the carcinogen, with companies like Uralasbest now at the forefront of the industry.
The harrowing images of Donald Trump’s face plastered across packages of lethal asbestos serve as a haunting message for the entire world, and especially for the U.S., which continues to import the substance at alarming rates. The Russian asbestos mining company that praises Trump and his administration for keeping the asbestos industry alive and well is not a good sign for an unpopular president who is already trying to wipe his hands clean of all suspicious associations with Russia.
Vladmir Putin and Donald Trump are set to meet on July 16th in Helsinki, Finland. A meeting agenda has yet to be released.