The banning of materials manufactured from asbestos in the UK, the US, Australia and many other industrialised countries around the world, does not stop others from both producing and exporting asbestos containing products known to cause fatal asbestos-related diseases.

The latest example concerns an alert issued in Australia warning that white decorative wall tiles imported from China – with the brand name of Snow White – had been found to contain a type of asbestos known as tremolite, a member of the amphibole group of silicate minerals.

Asbestos is divided into two sub-groups:
• Serpentine – chrysotile or white asbestos – which is the most commonly used type.
• Amphiboles, which includes crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), tremolite, actinolite and anthophyllite, of which crocidolite was also the most commonly used.

Preliminary research into the effects of exposure to tremolite asbestos suggests that autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis sometimes precede the onset of symptoms of tremolite asbestosis and tremolite-induced mesothelioma cancer.

All asbestos minerals are elongated crystals with some varieties – such as tremolite – being needle-like so when dust-size particles are inhaled, the crystals enter by piercing into the lung tissue. Once the particles penetrate, they stay in the lungs permanently, unable to be removed.

Eventually the crystals will cause a scarring of the lungs, called asbestosis, or cause a cancer of the lining (pleura) of the lung, called mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, asbestos disease victims can often show symptoms generally similar to those suffering from terminal emphysema. Many now believe that in past decades, because of a general lack of proper asbestos awareness and detailed research, some asbestosis cases were mis-diagnosed as emphysema.

In addition, as with other types of asbestos exposure, tremolite also can also have a long latency period and first asbestosis symptoms may only emerge after 40 years or more, affecting time limits to seeking asbestos advice and making an asbestosis claim.

In addition to UK and US, the following EU countries have also introduced comprehensive bans on asbestos mining, production, sale, use, import and export: Germany (1994), Italy (1992), Netherlands (1993), Sweden (1985), Norway (1987), Denmark (1988), Switzerland.