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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Asbestos is Devastating Workers, and Families, in Developing Countries


Some of the most shocking problems that have arisen from the asbestos industry are that many decommissioned ships, asbestos by-products, and other asbestos containing materials, end up in the poorest parts of the world for disposal. This is especially evident in India, Africa, Indonesia and South America, who all receive exports of asbestos from countries that still mine the deadly substance. South America itself is one of the largest exporters of white asbestos in the world, and makes millions of dollars sending their goods to poorer countries as cheap building materials.

Canada also still makes a great deal of money from their exports of white, or chrysotile, asbestos. It’s sent to Russia, China, Brazil and India to be used as a cheap construction material. Although this white asbestos is already banned, or restricted, in 52 countries, the white asbestos is still being mined in Canada and exported throughout the world. Even though blue and brown asbestos are no longer used, the World Health Organisation say that white asbestos is still a known cause of human cancer. 

During an investigation jointly undertaken by the BBC and the ICIJ, (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists), the truth about the global million dollar business in asbestos was revealed. During 2009, Canada exported nearly 153,000 tonnes of chrysotile abroad, over half ended up in India, and the rest travelled to Thailand, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Indonesia. In developing countries, there is, of course, a huge demand for cheap building materials, but the BBC also discovered families in the Indian city of Ahmedabad, living in homes made from cracked asbestos sheets. The saddest fact was that the family knew about the risks from asbestos, to their own lives, and the health of their children, but were too poor to be able to move somewhere safer. 

Advocating controlled use of white asbestos can be difficult to monitor. The BBC pointed to the evidence that they had gathered from around the world, during their investigation, that were was no comprehensive monitoring in place. From asbestos dust clouds in Indian workshops, to children in Indonesia breaking up asbestos with their bare hands, the risk to public health may only be solved with a global ban on all types of asbestos.

Asbestos related diseases have affected millions of lives all around the world and it’s getting worse. For advice about asbestos exposure call a member of our team at Simpson Millar, for a friendly chat on 0800 634 1626.

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