"Donald is on our side!" declared a Facebook post from the Russian mining company Uralasbest, which put U.S. President Donald Trump's face and a seal that reads "Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States," on pallets of its chrysotile asbestos products.
Praising the Trump administration's new asbestos policies, which were announced last month, the company's post thanked the president for supporting recently-resigned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, "who declared that his agency would no longer deal with matters related to side effects potentially caused by asbestos," according to a translation by Guardian.
The post also pointed to the president's claim, in his 1997 book The Art of the Comeback, that asbestos is "100 percent safe, once applied." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, found that from 1999 to 2015, asbestos killed at least 45,221 people in the United States alone, and the World Health Organization states on its website, "All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs)."
Ahead of Pruitt's resignation—after facing public outrage over his rollbacks of environmental regulations and a mountain of ethical scandals—he published a proposed rule (pdf) on asbestos in the Federal Register on June 11. The rule would allow for approval of "new uses" of asbestos.
Pruitt also revealed the EPA, as Newsweek reported, "will not consider the health risks and impacts of asbestos already in the environment when evaluating the dangers associated with the chemical compound. ...That means asbestos used in tiles, piping, and adhesives throughout homes and businesses in the United States will remain largely unchecked and unaccounted for."
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The Trump administration's policies and Russian company's stunt come amid concerns among lawmakers that Russia—which has the world's largest asbestos industry, according to the Center for Public Integrity—will become the United States' main supplier. As Chemical & Engineering News noted in December, 95 percent of asbestos used in the United States was previously imported from Brazil, but in November, Brazil banned the mining, use, and commercialization of asbestos.
Responding to the Russian firm's celebration of the administration's recent moves on asbestos policy, Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook warned, "Vladimir Putin and Russia's asbestos industry stand to prosper mightily as a result of the Trump administration's failure to ban asbestos in the U.S."
"By allowing asbestos to remain legal, the Trump administration would be responsible for a flood of asbestos imports from Russia and other countries into the U.S., as well as the wave of illnesses and deaths that will continue for years to come," concluded Linda Reinstein, co-founder and president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
Considering how many American deaths have been tied to asbestos exposure, Cook added, "Helping Putin and Russian oligarchs amass fortunes by selling a product that kills thousands each year should never be the role of a U.S. president or the EPA, but this is the Trump administration."