The US Environmental Protection Agency is moving to open new avenues to approve asbestos products, and at least one Russian asbestos producer seems thrilled about it. Earlier this summer, Uralasbest posted a photo on Facebook of pallets of its product wrapped in film stamped with an image of Donald Trump.
Russia is the sole source of asbestos to the US.
Environmental Working Group surfaced the post and provided a translation from the Russian:
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% safe after application.”
Brazil, where the US once got 95% of its asbestos, moved to shut down its asbestos mining industry completely in 2017. But in Russia, asbestos mining has held on.
In Asbest, a city of 70,000 in the Ural Mountains, residents are constantly inundated with asbestos powder. “When I work in the garden, I notice asbestos dust on my raspberries,” Tamara A. Biserova, a retiree who lives in Asbest, told the New York Times. So much asbestos piles up against her windows that “before I leave in the morning, I have to sweep it out.”
In 2009, the chairman of a major trade organization for Russian asbestos manufacturers told the Center for Public Integrity that he asked for Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin’s help; the asbestos industry was suffering from international crackdowns on the product. Putin “promised to support Russian producers of chrysotile,” he said, referring to a widely used form of asbestos. “Especially in situations where we find ourselves under political pressure at the international level.”