What you may not know about asbestos.
Originally posted on the CSRwire website.
By Krista Peterson
Most Americans are aware of the health dangers posed by asbestos and are aware it is no longer incorporated into most products in the United States. But many would probably be surprised to learn asbestos use is not actually outlawed — the ban was overturned by the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991. While the threat of lawsuits and public outrage keeps most manufacturers from using asbestos, certain construction materials are still allowed to contain the dangerous mineral. The EPA’s own clarification on the ban states: “EPA does NOT track the manufacture, processing or distribution in commerce of asbestos-containing products. It would be prudent for a consumer or other buyer to inquire as to the presence of asbestos in particular products.”
Though asbestos is no longer mined in the United States as of 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey states that we imported 820 metric tons of the material in 2010. So, where is this asbestos coming from? Surprisingly, most of it comes from Canada. While the Canadian government funds efforts to remove asbestos from schools and federal buildings within the country, it continues to export about 350,000 tons of the material annually, most of it to Southeast Asian countries that have lax or absent restrictions on asbestos use. That number could grow in coming years, as there is a plan in place to increase production in one of the world’s largest mines in the town of Asbestos, Quebec.
The asbestos mined in Quebec is of the chrysotile type, and while it is considered less dangerous than other types, experts agree it is still unsafe. Even a small amount of exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems, such as lung scarring, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen. Mesothelioma symptoms may take between 20 - 50 years to develop after exposure, so many of the workers who suffered the greatest exposure when asbestos was most popularly used — the mid-20th century — are only now realizing the terrible toll the mineral takes on the body. There is no cure for this cancer, and the average survival rate is eight to 14 months from diagnosis.
Andrew Schneider, Senior Public Health Correspondent for AOL News, reports the Canadian government has funded the Chrysotile Institute, the country’s asbestos lobbying group, to the tune of $1 million. Schneider also suggests the Canadian asbestos lobby played a large role in the 1991 overturn of the U.S. ban. The group continues to insist chrysotile does not cause disease, though medical doctors and concerned citizens alike are horrified at this stance. Activists accuse the Canadian government of placing profit ahead of safety, particularly in developing countries where occupational safety is poorly regulated and symptoms of mesothelioma may go undiagnosed.
Citizens of Canada, and abroad, must insist the mine in Quebec be closed, rather than sold to foreign investors who will increase production and, with it, the number of deaths attributable to asbestos exposure. The expansion of the mine constitutes a violation of the human rights of the citizens of India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and other countries to which Canada will ship this deadly mineral. Canada must take responsibility for the health hazard their exports cause — and refuse to value profit over human life.
About Krista Peterson
Krista is a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida. She is an aspiring writer with a passion for health and wellness, community development and the environment. Krista leads by example by living a healthy, green lifestyle. She enjoys reading, writing and practicing yoga.
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