Brazil Bans Asbestos: Impact on US Imports & Global Roofing Markets

Brazil Bans Asbestos: Impact on US Imports & Global Roofing Markets

Central and South America is one of the biggest consumers of fiber cement roofing – much of which has historically contained asbestos – due to its low cost, durability, and widespread availability in the region.

In 2017, the regional fiber cement roofing market totaled 217 million square meters – larger than any other major product segment. Despite the popularity of these products, the long-term effects of exposure to building products containing asbestos have rendered fiber cement a serious public health concern.

New Brazilian Regulations Outlawing Asbestos Have Ripple Effect

In November 2017, Brazil – one of the world’s largest fiber cement roofing markets – joined its regional neighbors Argentina and Chile in implementing a national ban on the production, commercialization, and use of asbestos in the country (although a number of Brazilian states had already banned its use).

This ban is a significant development, as Brazil (followed by Japan) is now the largest country in the world to outright ban the substance. Asbestos use is still widespread in China and India, and the US continues to use asbestos in such products as brake pads, automobile clutches, and diaphragms used in chemical production. In fact, the Trump administration further rolled back EPA rules on asbestos use in the US in 2018, despite protest from environmental groups and even key staff within the agency.

As Brazil accounted for nearly 100% of all asbestos imports to the US in 2017, the ban will have a major impact on US asbestos supply. Russia, which leads the world in asbestos mine production, is expected to fill the void and become the main US supplier.

Asbestos Ban Complicates Business for Top Brazilian Roofing Companies

As a direct result of the Brazilian asbestos ban, Eternit announced that it would replace asbestos with polypropylene in its fiber cement products sold in Brazil beginning in 2019.

The ban also presents a potential problem for roofing manufacturers in the region, as nearly half of all roofs in Brazil are covered with fiber cement sheets, a large portion of which contain asbestos. Going forward, the shift to more expensive non-asbestos products to comply with the ban could lead to a short-term drop in fiber cement roofing demand.

To Find Out More

Looking for information on the roofing industry worldwide? For historical and demand data forecasts by product, market, and region, see The Freedonia Group’s Global Roofing study. This study also covers:

  • market environment factors
  • industry structure
  • company market share
  • leading roofing companies

About the Author:

Matthew Hurley is an industry analyst at the Freedonia Group, where he writes studies focused on the US and global construction markets.