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Millions Spent to Protect Sales of Deadly Asbestos to Developing Nations

By Jim Greene

on September 13, 2010

Although the United States, the European Union, and dozens of other countries have banned or severely restricted the use of asbestos, the cancer-causing mineral is still widely used in developing countries, such as China, Mexico, and India. To keep sales going, asbestos producers have mounted a campaign to convince the world that asbestos can be used safely, denying increasing evidence to the contrary.

A nine-month investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the British Broadcasting Corporation estimates that nearly $100 million has been spent promoting asbestos sales since the mid-1980s, when the international movement to ban the substance began.

Asbestos has been suspected since ancient times of damaging the lungs. Suspicion mounted in the last 100 years, as asbestos use increased, especially in building construction and shipbuilding. Asbestos is now known to be the only cause of mesothelioma, an incurable, terminal cancer that attacks the outer linings of the lungs, heart, and other internal organs, as well as the inner linings of the chest and abdomen. It also causes asbestosis, which develops inside the lungs.

Expert Predicts Up to 10 Million Asbestos Deaths by 2030

Most fatal asbestos exposure is in the workplace. United Nations experts estimate that about 100,000 workers die from asbestos-related diseases each year. Dr. James Leigh, retired director of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at the Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, predicts five to 10 million asbestos-related cancer deaths by 2030.

Leading the effort to promote asbestos use is the Chrysotile Institute of Canada. Its message is that chrysotile, or white asbestos, is not as dangerous as other forms, and can be used safely under controlled conditions. In fact, chrysotile has long been the preferred form of asbestos for industrial use and currently accounts for about 95 percent of sales.

Canadian Government Fights to Protect Asbestos Industry

The Chrysotile institute has the backing of the Canadian government, which has appealed to the World Trade Organization to ease restrictions on asbestos. Although very little of it is used within Canada, presumably because of known health risks, that nation is the main supplier of asbestos to India and Mexico, and has one of the largest asbestos mines still in operation, near the town of Asbestos, in Quebec province.

In spite of the effort of the asbestos industry to protect its profits, it’s clear that asbestos is a killer. If you or someone you know is one of the millions of victims of mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related disease, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Billions of dollars in compensation have been paid to victims of asbestos, to pay for medical bills and lost income, and to protect the financial future of their families.

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