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Call for global ban on asbestos intensifies

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image Asbestos warning sign. CC image: srdreed/flickr

There should be a total ban on asbestos across the globe in favor of safer synthetic alternatives, according to scientists at the Collegium Ramazzini, an international society focused on occupational and environmental medicine, based in Modena, Italy.  The reserachers urged for the ban in the International Journal of Environment and Health.

While 52 nations have banned asbestos, some, including Canada, continue to mine and export the mineral. Canada came under intense criticsim today by the Lancet for its plan to re-open the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, that would produce asbestos for export to Asia.

An Asian delegation of asbestos victims, trade unionists and health organizations have joined with the Ban Asbestos Canada group to protest asbestos exports.

"We call on the Canadian government to end all exports of asbestos to south Asia, Mexico, and the global south, according to a Ban Asbestos Canada statement. "We condemn efforts to expand and reopen the Jeffrey mine in Quebec. Tonnes of exported Quebec asbestos will kill tens of thousands of workers around the world."

Asbestos includes any of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals. Serpentine asbestos, also known as chrysotile or white asbestos, is by far the most commonly used in buildings. Amphibole asbestos minerals including amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), and tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite, are no longer used.

Asbestos is used in building contruction for its ability to withstand fire, heat and acid, and insulate against heat and sound.

The incidence of mesotheliomas and lung cancers due to asbestos exposure are on the rise, according to the Lancet. The toxic effects from asbestos generally appear decades after exposure. The World Health Organization estimates about 125 million people worldwide are currently exposed to asbestos.


Asbestos is still with us: repeat call for a universal ban. International Journal of Environment and Health, 2010, 4, 380-388

Canada accused of hypocrisy over asbestos exports. The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 9 December 2010. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)62242-8


Subscribe to comments feed Comments (1 posted):

Travis Michael on 12/09/2010 11:55:49
Lancet’s report is important in the argument against Canada’s hypocritical export of asbestos. This cancer-causing material is being shipped to countries where workers are not properly informed of the risks of asbestos or armed to handle it safely. Without their knowledge, they are being exposed to toxins that have been linked to a plethora of respiratory diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Even though Canada is citing the jobs that will be lost if this practice ceases, can they compare to the lives possibly lost if it continues? It is time to stop the export and production of this material. Regards, TM http://www.mesorc.com/
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