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Urgent ban on all asbestos needed

09 December 2010 Inderscience

Scientists at the Collegium Ramazzini in Modena, Italy have repeated calls for a total ban on all asbestos across the globe. Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Health, the Collegium points out that just 52 nations have banned asbestos but a large number still use, import and export asbestos and asbestos-containing products.

Asbestos can refer to any of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals, serpentine asbestos, also known as chrysotile or white asbestos accounts for 95% of all asbestos use. The amphibole minerals: amosite (brown asbestos), crocidolite (blue asbestos), and tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite, are no longer used. Asbestos can withstand fire, heat and acid, is strong and insulates against heat and sound. But, it is a potent cancer-causing material account for 5-7% of lung cancers in men internationally and effecting the health of millions.

Despite the fact that there are now synthetic alternative that are much safer than asbestos, white asbestos is still mined and exported to the developing world, most notably by Canada, which has come under fire from the medical journal The Lancet for the alleged hypocrisy of having banned asbestos use in Canada but continuing to export the lethal material. The Collegium points out that exemption of white asbestos from any ban has no basis in medical science.

To protect the health of all people in the world - industrial workers, construction workers, women and children, now and in future generations, a total ban, rigorously enforced, is urgently needed, the Collegium says.

At least 125 million people around the world are today exposed to asbestos through their work with about 20 to 40% of adult men reporting past occupations that may have exposed them to the risk of mesothelioma, asbestos, and lung cancer due to asbestos.

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