Jun 14 2017

Banning Asbestos: Saves Money and Lives!

June 14, 2017: The World Health Organization released the English version of its Asbestos Fact Sheet 4 at the 6th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health (E&H) in Ostrava, Czech Republic; a Russian version is due out shortly with other translations to follow. The choice of venue to launch this new resource was appropriate as the focus of the three-day E&H event is to “to take action to address the 1.4 million annual deaths from polluted environments” in Europe.1 While the 28 member countries of the European Union have banned asbestos, others like Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Belarus have not. In fact, asbestos production in Russia and Kazakhstan accounts for 60+% of annual global output.

To maximize the impact of the new fact sheet, a side event entitled: Advancing the elimination of asbestos-related diseases is being held tomorrow (June 14) within the framework of the E&H conference to compare and contrast national strategies for eliminating asbestos-related diseases, reducing environmental and occupational asbestos exposures, assessing the costs and benefits of the continued use of asbestos and learning about up-to-date technologies for the disposal of toxic waste and the remediation of contaminated buildings and land.2 As the languages of this event are English and Russian it is not too much of a stretch to suppose that the delegates will include asbestos industry apologists from Eastern Europe who continue to toe the industry line that asbestos can be used safely under controlled conditions. Amongst the findings in the new WHO text which they will find the most objectionable are the following:

  • “There is no evidence for a safe threshold for the carcinogenic effect of asbestos. As increased cancer risks have been observed in populations exposed to a very low level, the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases it to stop using all forms of asbestos.”
  • “All forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are carcinogenic to humans.”
  • “About 70% of workers do not have any insurance to compensate them in case of occupational diseases and injuries.”
  • “There are no observable mid- or long-term negative economic impacts from bans or a decline in asbestos production or consumption at the country levels, nor observable persistent negative effects at the regional level.”

The four-page fact sheet makes the long-term costs to society of asbestos consumption crystal clear. The only ones who profit from the use of asbestos are the mine owners and asbestos entrepreneurs. Their profits are obtained at a horrific cost to workers and citizens who pay the bill for the ill health, premature deaths and remediation of structural and environmental contamination as explained in the final recommendation:

“There are substantial and increasing costs associated with the continuing production and use of asbestos. The long-term negative effects far outweigh any short-term economic benefits. Substantial health costs, long-term remediation and additional litigation costs (see Fig. 2) further reinforce banning all uses and the production of asbestos as early as possible in favour of sustainable and healthy economic development.”3

1 Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health.

2 Advancing the elimination of asbestos-related diseases.

3 World Health Organization: Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases, June 13, 2017.


Source: http://ibasecretariat.org/lka-blog.php#a126