When it comes to foreign policy and trade, it’s often common to see profits and revenue at the forefront of the discussion. Unfortunately, for both the United States and Canada, their tendency to put profits first when it comes to exporting products could be resulting in some pretty severe health risks in developing countries.

Asbestos was a common building material used all over the world throughout the 1900’s. Known for its versatility and its use as an insulator, asbestos became one of the most used materials all over. Now well known, the connection between this material and dangerous diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, has casted a dark shadow over its use. Blacklisted and banned in most countries around the world, asbestos is now only usually found in older buildings and structures that haven’t switched over their insulation.

Although use of this material is cut down most everywhere, unfortunately it’s still being exported from Canada and the United States. Canada is known as the “Western leader” when it comes to asbestos exporting and mining. The United States does not mine asbestos anymore, but instead they often export asbestos as a third party, relaying the material between two separate nations. Certainly, both of these practices are in the wrong, as the health risks connected with this material make exporting it simply unacceptable, especially when it’s essentially banned for use within the United States and Canada. Even with many of the citizens up in arms, businesses still continue to export this dangerous material.

Further complicating the process of exporting this material is the types of countries in which Canada, the United States, and other exporters such as Russia choose to trade with. More often than not, this asbestos is exported to poor and developing countries, often smaller nations in Africa and Asia. Many times, these are countries that have little to no medical resources; and even when they do, they are very poor. The connection between asbestos and mesothelioma has proven to be in direct correlation in the last 30 years; therefore exporting to these countries is putting these people at high health risk. Even so, the lack of resources when it comes to these developing countries could spell life-threatening situations. For example, mesothelioma life expectancy is quite severe, often averaging less than a year following an original diagnosis.

The fact that asbestos is exported to these small, poor, and developing countries on the regular is bothersome. Especially when studying the way asbestos is handled within the United States and Canada. Both countries spend millions of dollars every year in the removal and abatement process of asbestos, claiming what many already know, that it presents a health risk to their citizens. So why, exactly, is it okay to ban asbestos within your own country, but export it out for use in other countries?

Right now, keeping profits up seems to be the only reason that this type of trade is continuing. Awareness and criticism of asbestos trade has been steadily increasing recently, pointing towards progress in the fight to end this hypocritical exporting process. Given the increase in controversy and awareness, hopefully, the end to asbestos trade is on the horizon.