Canadian asbestos miners and asbestos cement makers like to argue that continuing to use asbestos makes sense because use is "controlled." That might be true every now and then, but Mother Nature has recently and repeatedly proved that the world’s societies cannot realistically assume control over nature, and so products need to be evaluated based on the harms they can cause when use is not controlled. Thus, Insurance Journal reports here that asbestos monitoring is now underway in Japan’s tsunami-stricken communities due to asbestos cement wreckage from buildings. Not surprisingly, fibers are being found by the monitoring, and exposures are occurring. The Insurance Journal article assumes the fibers are chrysotile (white) fibers. But the facts are that a Kubota-owned plant in Japan produced vast amounts of asbestos cement board using the far more carcinogenic crocidolite (blue) asbestos fibers, as is detailed in this medical article.
The controlled use rationale sounds logical. But it fails to account for the reality that we know that we cannot control nature, and there will be nature-caused calamities. We also know there will human mistakes and errors, with a prime example being the BP oil rig fiasco. The controlled use argument also fails to account for events that actually are not predictable. Law and society should move to the point that the controlled-use rationale is carefully scrutinized and limited to situations where it is proved – not assumed – to comport with human experience.