Global Asbestos Trade Increased by more than 20% in 2012
In her article, ‘Global asbestos trade increased by more than 20% in 2012” (Prevent Cancer Now, July 2013) Canadian campaigner and asbestos warrior Kathleen Ruff, calls for an end to the use of asbestos in industry. Instead the industry is growing. 1,081,885 tons of asbestos was exported globally in 2011 and in 2012 this rose to 1,327,592 tons.
The dangers of asbestos were noted by factory inspectors in the UK in 1898 yet between 1930 and 1980 sales of asbestos in the industrialised world soared. This in spite of the evidence that exposure to asbestos resulted in asbestosis, mesothelioma and other cancers.
Ms. Ruff details the tactics used by Canadian asbestos companies to hide evidence of disease caused by asbestos exposure and to avoid payment of compensation including the smuggling of x-rays and lung samples of asbestos workers across the US/Canada border in order to hide the evidence.
By the 1980’s the harm caused by asbestos could not longer be denied and consequently sales of asbestos plummeted. Ms. Ruff boldly states that Canada ‘was determined to save the asbestos industry’ and goes on to detail how this was achieved by the creation of the Chrysotile Institute. The Chrysotile Institute created new markets for asbestos in Asia, Latin America and Africa amid its claim that Chrysotile asbestos could be used safely. Research was carried out by an associated body, the Research Institute of Occupational Health, on the company’s workers and unsurprisingly came up with industry-friendly results.
Canada succeeded in halting the drop in sales of asbestos.
Ms. Ruff likens the asbestos industry’s strategy to target the developing world to that of the tobacco industry. Both relied on covering up the associated health hazards of their products.
Additionally Canada had a role to play in refusing to allow the UN Rotterdam Convention to list Chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance, despite it being considered a hazardous substance under Canadian law. This effectively allows asbestos to be exported from Canada to the developing world without safety controls or warnings.
Ms. Ruff states that although the current Canadian government, under the Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have now announced that they would stop blocking the listing of Chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention it still denies the science on asbestos and allows the import of asbestos-containing products into Canada. Canada’s position, in Ms Ruff’s opinion, sends a ‘sordid and cynical message to the world: base your international policy on protecting industry’s profits, not on protecting human health’.
Although Canada may have closed its mines and allowed Chrysotile asbestos to be listed as hazardous it remains complicit in the use of asbestos throughout the developing world. The Harper Government in fact rejects the opinions of the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Cancer Society and instead supports the continued use of asbestos. This despite shocking figures released in Quebec showing that over 80% of deaths of workers from occupational disease were caused by asbestos.
At present Russia is the world’s biggest asbestos exporter and figures show that Russia exports far more asbestos than it uses. Ms. Ruff states that Russia clearly plans to take over from Canada in denying scientific evidence and sabotaging international safety requirements.
She ends with a plea to the Canadian people that each of them has a role to play in ‘challenging and ending the destructive, irresponsible conduct by our Government, which is a shameful betrayal of our most basic values as Canadians: do not harm others’. This is a message and a plea which could be and should be extended to the world stage to end the production and use of asbestos globally.
The National Asbestos Helpline support the global ban on asbestos. Please join the fight, and sign our petition here: http://www.lobbyingforlife.co.uk